The National Hockey League and the National Hockey League Players Association have officially finalized their return to play initiative and we are learning more and more details about how they plan to operate during that time. Specifically the league revealed a number of details regarding Phase 3 and Phase 4 and included in that were 3 rules that I felt really stood out. Interestingly enough in 2 of these cases it sounds like the league intends to be extremely strict, but in the other not so much.
#1 Coaches will not be required to wear masks.
This one comes as a big surprise to me even though I realize there was no way players would be forced to wear masks while participating in a sport as intense as hockey, especially considering this is the NHL and they will be playing playoff hockey. Given the league's concerns about the spread of the virus this seems like an unnecessary risk, especially given how tight a ship the next two rules suggest they will be running here.
#2 There will be a media blackout on positive tests.
I really do not like this. According to a report from Sportsnet NHL insider Chris Johnston if a player does test positive, teams will be forbidden from sharing that information with members of the media unless given express permission from the NHL and the NHLPA. Given the fact that we are talking about public figures and a highly infectious disease, I don't like this one so much. I've never understood the stigma surrounding disclosing information regarding COVID-19 tests during this pandemic, even though I would normally consider players medical information off limits.
#3 Teams face huge fines if their players violate the rules.
This is probably the most eyebrow raising of the rules and I genuinely hope that no player gets caught in a situation like this. Sportsnet insider Elliotte Friedman reports that "Individuals leaving...without permission may be subject to consequences up to and including removal." That would be bad enough in and of itself, fans would crucify a player for selfishly leaving his team shorthanded in the playoffs, but the teams can also face "significant penalties, potentially including fines and/or loss of draft choices."