Canada grants NHL cross-border travel exemption for playoffs |
The NHL has received an exemption from Canadian health officials allowing teams to travel across borders starting in the Stanley Cup playoff semifinals, the league said on Sunday.
When in Canada, teams will need to stay in a bubble and be tested daily for COVID-19, much like the tight restrictions that allowed the NHL to stage and complete its playoffs in two hub cities. Last year. Teams will be assigned designated hotels and will have no interaction with the public.
Spokesman for Canadian Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino Alexander Cohen said the decision was made in collaboration with the Public Health Agency of Canada and with the approval of the governments of Ontario, Quebec, Alberta and Manitoba.
Cohen said the government would not hesitate to take further action if necessary.
“The National Hockey League is very grateful for the decision,” NHL Assistant Commissioner Bill Daly said in a league statement.
The exemption means that the winner of the NHL West Division Second Round Playoff Series between Colorado and Vegas will be allowed to travel to face the winner of the North Division Second Round Series between Winnipeg and Montreal.
The exemption will remain in effect in the event that Winnipeg or Montreal qualify for the Stanley Cup Final.
The NHL was considering moving its Canadian champion from the Northern Division to a temporary home in the United States starting from the semi-finals.
Border restrictions prevented NHL teams from traveling between the United States and Canada in a shortened 56-game regular season. The league was limited to inter-divisional play only and led to the creation of a Northern Division made up of the seven Canadian NHL franchises.
With few exceptions, travelers entering Canada are required to undergo a two-week isolation period upon arrival.
The restrictions took effect in March 2020, shortly after the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, and led the Toronto Raptors of the NBA and the Toronto Blue Jays of Major League Baseball to play their regular seasons exclusively for United States.
The Blue Jays currently play at their AAA site in Buffalo, New York, having spent the first two months of the season playing at their spring training facility in Dunedin, Fla.
Last week, Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro left open the possibility of the team returning to Toronto at some point this season. Shapiro, however, warned that the decision would likely depend on Canada’s easing of its border regulations.
Shapiro declined to go into detail, saying talks between the Blue Jays and Canadian health officials have become more frequent and “certainly more positive” in recent weeks.
The Canadian Press contributed to this report.
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