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Canada-U.S. border exemption granted for Stanley Cup-bound NHL teams

Last Updated Jun 6, 2021 at 12:56 pm MDT

Canadian and American flags fly near the Ambassador Bridge at the Canada-USA border crossing in Windsor, Ont. on Saturday, March 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rob Gurdebeke

The federal government has approved a plan that would see NHL teams cross the Canada-U.S. border for the final two rounds of the Stanley Cup playoffs without having to quarantine.

Team members will travel, both in and out of the country, using private planes and will be tested for COVID-19 pre- and-post arrival in addition to daily testing.

Throughout playoff rounds that require cross-border travel, players will live in a modified quarantine bubble that includes the team hotel and the arena when in Canada.

The measures mandate that there will be no sharing of facilities between players and the general public, and players must severely limit their time interacted with the public in both Canada and the United States.

A two-week isolation period is currently required for all non-essential travellers entering the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Earlier this year, NHL players and personnel were granted a special dispensation before this year’s NHL trade deadline in April that required only a seven-day quarantine.

“The National Hockey League is very appreciative of the decision by the Canadian government and the Federal health officials to allow the Canadian team that advances to the Stanley Cup Semi-Finals and, potentially, the Final, to host games in their own rinks,” read a statement released by deputy NHL commissioner Bill Daly.

Currently the Winnipeg Jets and Montreal Canadiens are playing in the North Division final with the winner moving on to the Stanley Cup semifinal against one of three American-based teams.

In a best-of-seven series, one team traditionally hosts Games 1, 2, 5 and 7 and the other hosts Games 3, 4 and 6.

The NHL had said it was considering having the Canadian division winner relocate to the U.S. for the final two rounds if it could not secure approval from government.

Other Canadian professional sports teams have had to relocate to the U.S. to avoid cross-border travel.

Major League Baseball’s Toronto Blue Jays started their season playing home games in Dunedin, Fla., and began calling Buffalo home this week.

Major League Soccer’s Toronto FC, CF Montreal and Vancouver Whitecaps have relocated to Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Sandy, Utah, respectively.

Major League Rugby’s Toronto Arrows are now based in Marietta, Ga., while the NBA’s Toronto Raptors recently completed their season in Tampa.

Canadian pro teams in many leagues outside the NHL have a larger majority, if not a full complement, of rivals in the U.S., making cross-border travel a requirement if they are to play in Canada.