NHL COVID-19 rules require coaches to mask up behind bench

NHL coaches are required to wear masks behind the bench, owners are barred from having face-to-face meetings with players, and teams can travel with no more than 50 people.

Those are among the coronavirus-related protocols the NHL released Tuesday in preparing to open the 2021 season on Jan. 13. Players scheduled to report for the start of training camp over the next two weeks.

The NHL also announced it is tweaking its offside rule for the upcoming season.

Both of the player’s skates must be fully across the plane of the opposing blue line ahead of the puck in order to be offside. That’s a switch from the previous rule in which a player was considered onside if he had at least one skate physically touching the blue line.

Under the coronavirus protocols, players arriving at their home cities for the start of training camp will be required to self-quarantine for a seven-day period, during which they will be tested four times. The NHL’s seven teams which failed to qualify for the playoffs open camp on Dec. 31, with the remaining 24 teams beginning four days later.

Coaches are required to wear face coverings at all times, except when on the ice and when eating and drinking. Team executives, such as owners and presidents, are listed in the Group 3 category, which is restricted from having direct contact with coaches and players at all times.

The rules cover everything from travel to mandating a team health official conduct a remote educational meeting for players and staff outlining the protocols before camps open.

Players are asked to avoid going to restaurants, bars and clubs, and to not have outside guests at their homes.

The rules were negotiated between the league and the NHL Players’ Association and expanded after the NHL closed last season in hubs in Toronto and Edmonton, Alberta. Teams were limited to staying inside a security bubble that was closed to the public, including family members.

The new season will feature teams traveling, but playing only division opponents through a 56-game regular season and the first two rounds of the playoffs. The four divisions have been realigned based on geographical proximity to reduce travel.

The NHL is still in discussions with federal and provincial health officials to determine whether its seven Canada-based teams will be able to play in their home markets.

The regular season is scheduled to conclude on May 8, with the Stanley Cup Final tentatively set to finish by July 9. The league’s trading deadline will be April 12.

The NHL has also set aside July 21 for its expansion draft for the addition of the Seattle Kraken, followed by the two-day draft to be held on July 23-24.

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