The NHL is pumping the brakes on asymptomatic testing.
Following in the footsteps of the NBA and NFL, the NHL will stop testing players and staff members who are not exhibiting symptoms associated with a possible COVID-19 infection once the league returns from All-Star weekend in early February, according to various reports.
This is something players and teams have been asking for and, truth be told, is a decision only made possible by the virus having already impacted so many in the hockey world. A baseline level of herd immunity — not unlike its impact on communities, cities and countries — limits the further risk of infection and spread, and will actually allow the league to operate more safely.
According to data collected by ESPN's Emily Kaplan, 73 percent of the player population has tested positive for the virus.
Players crossing the border will still be required to test in accordance to law.
The NHL was dealing with widespread outbreaks of the Omicron strain in the lead-up to holiday break, leading to a halt on the season, the postponement of games, and the decision to pull out of the Olympics. Players were required to test daily after the pause, marking a return to many of the protocols used to safely complete the 2020-21 season — including the use of taxi squads.
Eliminating daily testing carries with it the risk of spread and, by extension, the health of the players and staff members involved, but will clearly help the NHL complete the season. It will also prevent healthy and asymptomatic players from landing in COVID-19 protocol when they are fit and able to play, and also not deemed to be a threat to others.
Tyler Bertuzzi of the Detroit Red Wings remains the NHL's lone unvaccinated player, and, until further notice, will be subject to stricter protocols and will not be able to cross the border to compete in Canadian rinks.
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