The NHL and NHL Players Association released their medical protocols and transition rules for the 2020-21 season Tuesday, as well as the official critical-dates calendar and the announcement of a formal change to the offsides rule.
While most of the critical dates remain as previously reported, a change was made to the last possible date for the Stanley Cup Finals, which was switched from July 15 to July 9. The length of the NHL schedule, however, likely will be contingent on how much time will be needed to play any games that are postponed.
Training camps are set to open for most teams on Jan. 3 (on Dec. 31 for the seven teams that didn’t qualify for the 2020 playoffs), and the NHL said players who test positive for the coronavirus during camp will not be publicly named.
During the regular season, however, players with positive COVID-19 tests will be announced via official NHL media and social media platforms. Only league-wide numbers will be made public during training camp.
“Clubs are required to inform the League as soon as a positive test is confirmed and to immediately implement this Positive Test Protocol,” the “Disclosure” portion of the NHL’s Positive Test Protocol guidelines read. “Decisions regarding a Player’s return to play will be made by his Club’s medical staff in accordance with local health guidelines and protocols.”
In a directive similar to the protocols put in place for this past season’s bubble playoffs, players will be permitted to participate in workouts in the weight room in small groups of up to a maximum of 10. Players will also remain in the same small groups for off-ice training. Each team’s schedule is required to provide sufficient time between sessions to allow for proper disinfection of the facility.
Home teams will be expected to make the game arena or their practice facility available for visiting teams, which will not be permitted to practice in facilities owned or operated by third-parties.
During games, which are set to begin Jan. 13, coaches will be required to wear a face mask at all times except “when engaging in physical exertion on the ice.”
As far as the league’s traveling policies, all members of a team’s traveling party will be prohibited from utilizing transportation or dining destinations, going to shops or receiving services that are not provided directly by the club.
Teams will also be required to obtain two hotel rooms with a checkout date scheduled for after the team is set to depart for each road trip. The rooms will be used to house any member of the traveling party who needs to quarantine in the event of a positive COVID-19 test.
While players continue to adapt to the league’s new off-ice protocols, there will be new rules to get used to on the ice as well.
The NHL announced that beginning in the 2020-21 season, a player’s skate will not have to be in contact with the blue line in order to be onside.
“A player is on-side when either of his skates are in contact with the blue line, or on his own side of the line, at the instant the puck completely crosses the leading edge of the blue line,” the new addition to the offside rule reads. “On his own side of the line shall be defined by a ‘plane’ of the blue line which shall extend from the leading edge of the blue line upwards. If a player’s skate has yet to break the ‘plane’ prior to the puck crossing the leading edge, he is deemed to be on-side for the purpose of the off-side rule.”