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NHL Working with Canadian Health Officials

NHL puck

The National Hockey League is in the process of getting a travel exemption for the final two rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Canadian teams have not crossed into the United States since the 2021 season began, but that becomes an issue next playoff round.

The North Division winner will be required to enter the United States, and the winners from the other three divisions will need clearance as well. NHL officials believe that a deal with Canadian health officials will be in place by the end of this week.

Currently, all nonessential travel into Canada requires a 14-day isolation period. Canada considers sports nonessential travel at this time, and that is why an exemption is needed.

If a deal is reached, North American teams will be able to travel to Canada and not be forced to isolate, but other COVID policies will remain in place. The NHL already has a strict protocol that requires daily testing, and the league is attempting to prove to Canada that there is no risk of bringing COVID-19 into the country.

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Federal Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino will be in charge of approving any official deal, but the league is expected to strike deals with each province as well. The cities of Winnipeg, Montreal, and Toronto all currently have teams still alive in the postseason, and the league is working with these cities also.

This has been an issue since the pandemic hit last March and halted the 2020 NHL season. Instead of looking for an exemption for the 2020 NHL Playoffs, the league sent all 24 playoff teams to hubs in Toronto and Edmonton.

If a deal is not able to be reached in time, the league will force the winner of the North Division to relocate to the United States for the final two rounds. The team would likely be placed in a city without a semifinalist, as the league would still look to sell tickets and bring in revenue.

While COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted or loosened throughout the United States, things have gotten even tighter in Canada. The country is trying to stop the spread of COVID-19 variants, and it continues to have strict travel restrictions in place.

Other Sports Still Affected

The NHL is not the only professional sport that has been affected by these travel restrictions, and each league has gone about the issue in different ways. There was hope that things would start to get back to normal by the start of June, but that has not been the case.

The Toronto Blue Jays of MLB have not played a home game at its normal stadium since the 2019 regular season. Toronto was forced to relocate to its Spring Training home in Dunedin, Florida, for the first two months of this season and will move to Buffalo, New York, this week.

Canadian Major League Soccer teams have all been forced to relocate to the United States for this season and have not been able to visit home. The Toronto Raptors of the NBA played home games in Tampa, Florida, to avoid these restrictions.

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