Safety regulations for the NHL Return to Play Plan poured out late Sunday night. As the NHL and NHLPA agreed to the safety regulations and details of the Phase 3 training camps and Phase 4 games, one strictly worded stipulation may significantly affect Max Domi and the Montreal Canadiens vs. Pittsburgh Penguins Qualifying Round series.
First, PHN acknowledges Sportsnet reporter Elliotte Friedman who released the text in a series of Tweets late Sunday night.
Montreal forward Max Domi has diabetes, and there has been some concern Domi could be at higher risk of severe effects should he contract COVID-19. As part of the new agreement between the owners and players, players who are at higher risk of effects from the coronavirus may be deemed unfit for play, according to the released text.
“Players who are determined to be at substantial risk of developing a serious illness as a result of exposure to the novel coronavirus shall be deemed to be unfit to play and shall not be permitted to participate either in Phase 3 or Phase 4,” the agreement reportedly states.
Players will undergo a medical exam before the return to play. If doctors discover conditions, the player will be deemed unfit to participate. After consulting with the doctor who diagnosed the condition, and the team’s infectious disease expert, a determination will be made. The player will have the right to seek a second opinion.
The released text does not clearly state who will make the final decision for a player’s eligibility.
Health Canada has released a set of preexisting conditions which place people are higher risk, and diabetes is on the list. However, how much greater and if diabetes is within the risk tolerance of both sides has not been formally stipulated.
Max Domi is one of three players slated to be a part of the 24-team NHL return, who has diabetes. New York Rangers rookie Kappo Kaako and Minnesota Wild center Luke Kunin are the others. According to Diabetes.org and the website’s FAQ, persons with diabetes are at a higher risk of severe effects from COVID-19, and any virus.
“People with diabetes do face a higher chance of experiencing serious complications from COVID-19,” the website stated. “In general, people with diabetes are more likely to experience severe symptoms and complications when infected with a virus … Your risk of getting very sick from COVID-19 is likely to be lower if your diabetes is well-managed.”
Domi was the Montreal third-leading scorer this season with 44 points (17g, 27a). It was a down season for Domi, who had 72 points (28g, 44a) last season, and he is a primary player in Montreal as the pivot on the second line with Brendan Gallagher on the right.
It will be a huge loss for Montreal if he is deemed ineligible.
In May, Montreal GM Marc Bergevin said he and the team would defer to doctors regarding Domi’s status.
The winner of the Penguins vs. Montreal Qualifying Round series will advance to the NHL Playoffs, Round One. Per the 24-team tournament format, each round will be re-seeded, so Montreal will always face the highest seed. The fifth-seeded Penguins will face the fourth-seeded team, which will be determined by a round-robin tournament of the top four teams in the Eastern Conference.
Even if doctors clear Domi, he will have the option to opt-out without penalty. As part of the weekend negotiations, the NHL and NHLPA agreed that players might opt-out without penalty, and those players will also be eligible for their share of playoff bonuses. The owners agreed to double the size of bonuses, from $16 million to $32 million. Qualifying Round bonuses will be $20,000. Stanley Cup winners will get $240,000.
Players disqualified from play as a result of a diagnosis that is deemed to be a danger will have the right to obtain a second opinion.
As Phase 3 training camps begin, the league and teams will no longer disclose positive tests. The NHL and teams have been notifying the public of positive tests but protecting players’ privacy by not naming those players. In the next phase, teams will no longer disclose any information. If a player does contract the virus, it shall be treated as a hockey injury, unless that player broke quarantine.
The new CBA and protocols for Phases 3 and 4 also include language that allows either the NHL or NHLPA to opt-out of the return if it no longer believes it is safe to play. In such an instance, the other party will inform the other and consult the NHL Chief Medical Officer and the NHLPA medical consultant. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman would make the final decision in consultation with the NHLPA head Donald Fehr. There is also an expedited grievance system set up in case Bettman and Fehr disagree.
Players will be tested daily inside the bubble of the NHL hub cities, Toronto and Edmonton. More rules are emerging as the NHL and NHLPA prepare the Memorandum of Understanding for the new six-year CBA, which you can read more about here.