It is starting to come out that some people in the NHL are unhappy with the COVID protocols they are having to live under. Even though those protocols are not as strict as they were last year, they are still strict and can be trying on anyone. However, NHL players, coaches, executives, as well as anyone associated with the league are a part of society overall and because of the nature of their work, they are going to have to have increased protocols on them. The difference between the NHL and NBA is the NHL is testing asymptomatic players which allows them to have a clearer picture of their COVID situation and make more informed decisions.
All that said, please read this from Connor Hellebuyck and watch the video of Steve Yzerman:
#NHLJets goalie Connor Hellebuyck, speaking after practice today in Winnipeg, went to town on this very issue and believes current NHL protocols are “doing more harm than good.” Will be interesting to see where this goes in the coming days/weeks. https://t.co/xyODOEWe8V pic.twitter.com/IH4D9uMO7d— Mike McIntyre (@mikemcintyrewpg) December 19, 2021
Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman is asking why the NHL is testing vaccinated players if they don’t have symptoms.— Brad Galli (@BradGalli) December 18, 2021
He said most of the cases across the league are at worst a mild cold. pic.twitter.com/vhwtrF3zCC
You can scroll through the thread to see Yzerman’s longer answer. Yzerman mentions that most of the players who test positive are not experiencing severe symptoms. If we believe him, and we have no reason not to, raise a glass for vaccines which have been proven to help prevent the most severe symptoms in most people. Testing players, even if they are asymptomatic, allows the NHL to have a clear picture of what they are dealing with when it comes to COVID in the NHL. They are able to respond accordingly even if we do not think they are doing the right way when it comes to responses.
The NHL does not live in a bubble. There are other professional sports leagues operating in North America where they are not testing everyone like the NHL. They might also have less restricted movement away from the rink. But the NHL and all professional leagues need to look at where they fit in the community ecosystem. Right now we are seeing healthcare workers on the brink of total collapse. We see schools straining under the inability to fill substitute roles while also being instructed to prepare to enter both code orange and red in schools. And we have teams playing in full arenas where in some cases they do not have mask mandates in place.
First of all, if we look at what Yzerman says about players not getting really sick does not mean that they do not have people at home who could get sick from them. To add to that, them being sick means that their family has to isolate which pulls them out of school if they are in school and forces everyone to be home for the entire time while also being isolated from their family. This does not even touch on single players having to got through this alone and would be completely alone while sick.
Hockey Night in Canada did bring up the fact that the NHL has gotten the advice that shutting down may not bring the situation under control quickly and could lead to a longer shutdown than they anticipate. I agree that a shutdown should be the last resort for the league. However, they are running out of teams that can play due to health and safety protocols. The idea that they might have to shut the league down for more than what they have agreed to (until Boxing Day) is very real because they do not have the healthy bodies needed to play hockey at the moment and the same goes for the NHL.
For almost two years now we have heard comments about the shifting responses to an active situation. While the NHL might be making different choices then you or I, they are making choices that do place the players health at the forefront with testing of all players and personnel and not just symptomatic people.