The NHL is following other leagues and the CDC by cutting COVID-19 isolation times to five days under certain conditions and where it is allowed by local laws.
The change went into effect Wednesday and applies only in the U.S. because of stricter pandemic regulations in Canada. The league has 25 teams based in the U.S. and seven in Canada and on Tuesday postponed nine games scheduled for north of the border because of attendance limits imposed by provincial governments.
Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly confirmed the new protocols, which were first reported by Daily Faceoff. They apply for 14 days, at which time league and players' association officials will reconvene to review the situation.
Players, coaches and staff who tested positive for the coronavirus can return after five days if symptoms are gone or resolving themselves with a negative PCR test or two negative rapid test results taken more than two hours apart.
“I think that’s a good step,” Nashville Predators forward Filip Forsberg said on a video call. "Obviously testing will still be a regular thing, I’m sure, and that’s something that we dealt with all last year, so we’re used to that. But I think that’s the way to do it as long as we can keep everything in the way it’s been, which has been pretty safe to me.”
The 10-day isolation requirement remains in Canada. The NBA and NFL previously reduced to six and five days, respectively, after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidance.
Hockey players this week had expressed a desire for shorter isolation times. Daily testing and enhanced protocols, including mask-wearing at team facilities unless on the ice for games or practices, are in effect through at least Jan. 7.
The league has postponed 80 games so far this season, counting the nine in Canada because of crowd restrictions in the provinces of Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba. Another game, scheduled for Jan. 12 between the Canadiens and Bruins, was moved from Montreal to Boston, where fans are permitted.
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Stephen Whyno, The Associated Press