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NHL Revises COVID Protocols in Effort to Curb Virus Spread



NHL Arena

For a second consecutive game, the Nassau Coliseum stood dark after both of the New York Islanders’ games with the Buffalo Sabres were postponed this week due to COVID-19. Buffalo was one of four teams this week to deal with COVID outbreaks, which forced their season to be put on hold.

In response to those outbreaks, the NHL is implementing a new set of in-arena protocols for teams and players to try and mitigate the spread.

Beginning on Thursday, the glass behind the team benches will be removed to help with airflow, coaches and players are being advised not to show up to the arena on game days more than one hour and 45 minutes ahead of puck drop and all meetings on game days and non-game days should be held virtually.

Clubs are also being told to create additional space in home and visiting locker rooms so that social distancing of at least six feet can be accommodated. In addition, the NHL is considering placing portable air cleaners with HEPA behind the benches.

“We are mindful of the fact that we might be seeing a more aggressive transmission of the virus and will continue to make adjustments to our Protocols as we consult on a daily basis with, and adhere to, the recommendations of our medical advisors,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a press release. “It is important to note that, while we have seen almost 100 players enter our COVID Protocols, fewer than half have done so because of confirmed positive tests – and, among that group, many have not been symptomatic. Our priority has been and will continue to be to act conservatively with an abundance of caution, understanding that there are many things about the transmission of COVID-19 that are still being discovered.”

Teams had begun implementing those protocols on Thursday morning and there had already been some pushback by the players over the NHL limiting their preparation time at the arena, according to TSN.

The Islanders have managed to remain relatively COVID-free since the start of the season. Only Joh Bailey had been put on the NHL COVID protocol list, but was taken off of it after one day. The postponement of Tuesday and Thursday’s games with Buffalo had been the first time they’ve felt a direct impact of the virus on their season.

Vegas, New Jersey and Minnesota along with Buffalo have their season paused due to the virus. Buffalo had played New Jersey twice last weekend.

The Islanders have been using the unexpected break as extra practice time this week. The team held practices on Tuesday, when they were first scheduled to play Buffalo, and Wednesday. They did not skate on Thursday and won’t play again until Saturday.

They had been hoping to stop their current five-game losing streak after an 0-3-2 road trip last week.