By — Joey Hudson

With the 2020-2021 NHL starting January 13, the NHL is going to be taking safety protocols in order to ensure the safety of players, coaches, referees, and behind the scenes staff from being exposed to COVID-19. The NHL did a great job during the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs compared to other sports franchises by taking the correct measures that ended with all of the participating players and staff not being exposed or infected with COVID-19. While this was a huge accomplishment for the NHL franchise, it is going to be harder to repeat due to the fact that this time the players and coaches are going to have to be traveling to different places rather than being kept in a huge bubble like they were in the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs. In order to solve this situation, the NHL decided to split all 31 teams into specific divisions and have all the teams in the same division only play against each other. For example, the East Division, which consists of the New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Buffalo Sabres, Washington Capitals, Boston Bruins, Philadelphia Flyers, and the New Jersey Devils, will only play against each other since they share the same division and they will not play any of the other teams in the Central, West, and North divisions. The reason for this is in order to shorten the travelling distance and lessen the risk of COVID being spread. There will also be less games than usual, with only 56 games in the regular season. Another change that wasn’t implemented during the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs is that coaches are now required to wear masks at the bench at all times. It isn’t believed that this won’t have much of an impact between communication with coaches and players. All team and player meetings will be held virtually as many of them already have been. Players are also only allowed certain places only and restricted to going to other places they normally would have been able to prior to COVID-19. Players are only allowed to visit the rinks that are permitted by the NHL that will be closed off to the public and hotels they’re staying out. To add onto the hotel situation, players will each be getting their own rooms and will not be having any roommates. Players and staff will also be required to have daily testing done for the first four weeks of the season.

While these strict measures and requirements will help with lessening the spread of the virus, it’s still going to be a difficult feat to overcome. Just recently, the Dallas Stars’ franchise came out with news that six players and two staff members have been infected with COVID-19, causing the team to delay their 2020-2021 season to January 19th. The players and staff have been quarantined and are following the current protocols that have been implemented by the NHL and CDC and the names of those infected will not be released. Upon the recent news, the Pittsburgh Penguins have cancelled practice due to potential exposure to COVID-19. Despite these recent news, the NHL seems to be continuing with having the season continue on the same date. Hopefully, the protocols implemented will help the season continue as normal and everyone involved in producing and participating in the season will be coronavirus free by the end of it.