During a call that lasted more than an hour last week, NHL players were “strongly encouraged” by the NHL Players’ Association to get fully vaccinated and warned about potential loss of pay during the upcoming season if they do not do so. The NHLPA discussed the potential for teams to withhold paychecks should an unvaccinated player contract COVID-19 or if an unvaccinated player can’t accompany his team on road trips where local or federal authorities require vaccinations to enter.
On Monday, the Canadian government opened the border to Americans or Canadians living in the United States as long as they’ve been fully vaccinated for 14 days and show proof of a negative test result within 72 hours of their arrival.
Unvaccinated individuals who arrive in Canada – whether a resident or not – still must quarantine for 14 days.
The NHLPA and NHL have been engaged in constant discussions about policies and procedures for next season that will satisfy both safety and compliance measures and provide the best chance at being able to complete a full season without any major shutdowns or scheduling snafus. Unlike last season, when the schedule was constructed with some flexibility should outbreaks occur, this season has significantly less maneuverability. Part of that is due to a potentially compressed schedule as a result of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing (a decision on NHL participation is expected to come down later this month), and part of that is due to the desire to play a full NHL schedule to stave off the adverse economic impact COVID has wrought on the league and teams.
When those protocols and policies are agreed upon, they will then be submitted to federal and local governments for consideration. It is not immediately clear whether these protocols and provisions will include any explicit provisions on unvaccinated players and potential loss of pay, but the union informed its members of the possibility last week so as to provide adequate time and information to make plans for the upcoming season.