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How the NHL’s playoff bubble managed to remain COVID-free

All hockey enthusiasts’ eyes have been on the NHL’s playoffs, especially because of the long break owing to the coronavirus pandemic. Many have been waiting to see how the NHL will bounce back in action, considering that they must take precautions to keep the coronavirus out of the arenas.

The NHL seemed to have gotten something right that other games never managed to achieve in the fight against the pandemic. This realization came as early as the first week of the return-to-play protocol. In this week, zero positive cases of coronavirus were recorded among the 7,703 participants.

How the NHL’s Playoff Bubble Remained COVID-Free

While other major leagues were struggling to cope with the new normal, NHL seemed to be in charge of things. What did they do right that other leagues got wrong? How did the playoff bubble manage to remain COVID-free? Here are some of the answers.

  1. Outstanding Stakeholders

Not to say, the other leagues and major games lacked the input of great stakeholders, but the NHL must have leveraged their stakeholders’ capabilities. The input of biotech experts like Eugene Melnyk, Ottawa Senators owner, and other medical experts must have helped achieve success.

On Eugene’s Website, you can learn how much he holds health and cleanliness with the utmost respect. His understanding of the importance of social distancing and observing other Covid-19 measures saw him postpone the idea of fans coming back to the field just yet. The idea to keep fans away has been met with mixed reactions but has been a leading contributor to low Covid-19 cases in NHL.

  1. Being in a Bubble Was Non-Negotiable

Whoever came with the Bubble idea must have had all the NHL organizers’ thoughts in his mind. When this idea came out, the NHL decided that participating teams had to play in the bubble, and it was not to be negotiated further.

The idea came from NHL’s medical advisors, including Dr Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease expert in Toronto. He was skeptical about the idea but had confidence that it would help mitigate the risk if not eliminating it significantly.

In the bubble, Dr. Isaac Bogoch and the team suggested the following measures:

  • Careful testing
  • Careful protocols
  • Symptoms check
  • Good communication

With these measures in play, the bubble approach was indeed going to yield fruit, and they had little doubt about that. And true to their confidence, the bubble proved beneficial in the playoffs.

  1. Adherence to the Administrative Laws

The NHL moved right ahead of time to stick to the laid out rules from the political leaders. While other leagues were still divided on whether to lock down or continue a little longer, the NHL was decided. They followed the rules as early as they were issued.

When the leaders instructed for lockdown, the NHL locked down. When it was time to put on masks and wash hands, they adhered. That explains why when the time came for the NHL to open up slowly and safely, they followed all the precautionary measures. One mistake they avoided completely was politicizing the pandemic.

  1. A Detailed Testing Procedure

Everyone else was getting tested and taking precautions. The NHL teams took the testing process more seriously and incorporated comprehensive testing procedures for their players. That reduced the risk of exposure of team members to the coronavirus.

Before anyone entered the bubbles, the NHL had set aside specific dozens of people who would do the tests daily. The groups included players and everyone who came into contact with the players. It also involved the ice crew and the PA announcer.

There were 30-minute window periods for daily testing appointments for everyone going inside the bubble. There were 12 tables set up in the bubble, with each table given a range of alphabets where players would pick personalized forms. Once they had the forms, they would proceed for testing- a process that lasted less than five minutes.

  1. The ‘Health Pass’ and the Touchless Biometric Identification System

Another NHL’s reasonable step was using advanced measures like the touchless biometric identification system and the ‘Health Pass.’ That helped to mitigate the spread of the virus even further. The NHL used it to take the players’ temperatures and track their health information.

For the ‘Health Pass,’ what the players needed to do was simple. They had to create accounts on their mobile phones and add a selfie for identification purposes. They could then use the app to answer basic health questions every morning before leaving the hotel room.

They would later receive a QR code for a personal temperature check at a chosen physical kiosk in the vicinity. The result would either be a red or a green health pass. If green, the NHL will confirm that the player has fulfilled the requirement for access.

If the light signal turns out to be red, the player had to be quarantined for two weeks. They would receive special care and their conditions assessed before getting allowed back into the bubbles.

  1. Closer Monitoring of Players and Staff Movements and Activities

It seemed players and staff would not enjoy the free will of picking any hotel and restaurant they would love to spend time in during the season. The NHL has plans to have each player and staff in private hotel rooms.

No player or staff will be allowed to eat at restaurants or visit shops and bars while moving with the team. Everyone is expected to get meals served at the team hotel. Each team must offer transportation to the players to minimize contact with the public.

  1. Sacrifice for the Success

Every success comes with sacrifice, of course, but not every league was willing to abide by all of the rules. NHL was willing to get to any length to achieve a Covid-free bubble season. It had to bar non-participants from entering the bubble.

The NHL wasn’t willing to let in family members until towards the end of the season. That was purely to see as few people as possible inside the bubble for obvious reasons. However, the NHL still did their best to make everyone comfortable and accommodated.

Another notable sacrifice was from the NHL staff. Many of them had to work for many hours to minimize the chances of spreading the virus during the change of shifts.

Final Thought

Every measure that the NHL put in place to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus was precautionary. Luckily, the measures worked well for the NHL in the bubble season, and hopes are that the season will keep getting better for the teams. Sooner, teams will play more freely, and fans will start having their way into the arenas in increased numbers.

Categories: Sports