| February 4, 2021, 8:29 AMFebruary 4, 2021, 8:29 AMAfter an extremely challenging day where five teams added more players to their COVID-Related Absences List and the Minnesota Wild were shut down until Feb. 9, the NHL made four changes to its in-arena protocols in an effort to slow the spread of the virus.
The most noticeable to everyone watching will be the removal of all glass behind team benches. Clearly, the league is worried about air flow in that area, where contact is closest and lengthiest during games. The NHL isn’t waiting on that directive, asking it to be done in time for Thursday’s games.
• The NHL indicated it is considering asking teams to deploy portable air cleaners behind the benches, “in order to improve indoor air quality and mitigate airborne viral transmission.” These cleaners would use HEPA filters, which Consumers Reports magazine states “results in reductions of 50 per cent or higher in particulate matter.”
• Players and coaches are no longer permitted to arrive at the arena more than one hour and 45 minutes before puck drop. (The exception is for receiving necessary treatment of injuries.) All meetings — whether game day or not — should be virtually conducted.
• Teams are being asked to utilize (or create) additional locker room space for themselves and their opponents, with the league looking to have at least six feet between players at each of their stalls. Teams have one week to communicate their plans for accomplishing this. (If necessary, portable stalls can be provided to teams.)
There is nothing yet about adding a second daily test — a rapid test — before games. All players are given a PCR test every morning. It is the most accurate and reliable of all COVID tests, but it takes longer to receive results. There are more and more calls behind the scenes to add them, but, to this point, they aren’t mandated.