While the National Hockey League is inching closer to puck drop for the 2020-21 season, there is still lots to get done with protocols and logistics to get the next campaign safely underway.
The NHL could draw inspiration from the Return to Play format it put together for the playoffs in the summer, though the league would prefer to see teams play in their respective arenas, if skyrocketing COVID-19 numbers can come down…
However, if it remains an issue, Darren Dreger believes players will once again get the possibility of opting out for the season. During the summer, the NHL decided to let players the option to opt out of the league’s Return to Play if they choose without consequence. Six players made the decision to opt out, including Travis Hamonic, who was the first player to officially opt out of the NHL’s Return to Play, not wanting to hinder his daughter’s health in the process.
Nothing is set in stone for what players will be allowed to do if ever they choose to opt out of the season, however, Dreger explained on last night’s Insider Trading on TSN how it could be an option, once again offered by the NHL.
“Everyday we’re reminded of how devastating COVID-19 is. And the National Hockey League and Players’ Association, along with the government leaders, are very sensitive to that. I’ll remind you, in the summer going into Return to Play, there was an opt-out option for any player or team personnel who didn’t want to participate, didn’t want to deal with the risk of COVID-19. And a number of people took advantage of that. Well, there is going to have to be opt-out language in the 2020-21 season prep work as well.
In addition to that, what about vaccinations? Testing was mandated by the NHL and the NHLPA as part of Return to Play. When the vaccine is ready and is available to NHL players and club personnel, will it be mandatory? Both the opt-out and mandatory vaccinations have to be discussed and agreed upon between the NHL and the NHLPA.”
One player that has been quite vocal on his decision to return to action in link with the format is veteran defenseman Zdeno Chara. The unrestricted free agent has yet to re-sign with the Boston Bruins, or any team for that matter, stating that he’s waiting to see what the NHL and NHLPA can hammer out as another return to play plan.
We might get a better feeling for his answer soon now that things are falling into place for a 2020-21 season starting on Jan. 13th.
If not, he may be one of a few players choosing to opt out of action for the upcoming season.