Canada approves travel exemption for NHL players

Shelby Thevenot
Published: June 7, 2021

The federal government is allowing National Hockey League teams to cross the Canada-U.S. border for the final two rounds of the championship playoffs.

Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino has issued a "national interest" exemption, allowing NHL hockey players to cross the border with a modified quarantine requirement.

Teams can only go between countries using private planes. Players and team personnel coming from the U.S. will have to take COVID-19 tests before and after arriving in Canada, and be subject to daily testing.

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Players will live in a modified quarantine bubble that includes the team hotel and arena, and will be subject to rules limiting or forbidding their interaction with the public. They may not share facilities with the general public.

The exception allows for U.S.-based teams to come to Canada, and vice versa, for the final two rounds of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

The winners of the Canadian division could be decided tonight, June 7, if the Montreal Canadiens win a fourth game against the Winnipeg Jets in a best-of-seven series. Once this round is decided, the winning team will go on to be the only Canadian team in the semi-finals. Cross-border travel will be required for Canadian and U.S. teams to play each other.

This is not the first time NHL personnel were granted an exemption. In December, Canada also issued an exemption to the mandatory 14-day quarantine requirement for NHL players and staff to return to Canada for training camp. Again, under "national interest" grounds.

Travel restrictions may ease this month

Canada's ban on non-essential travel with its largest trading partner is set to expire June 21, and there is buzz that restrictions may start to scale back.

There is a push in the U.S. for a unilateral re-opening, propelled by Congressman Brian Higgins, among others. The White House is looking to the Centre of Disease Control for guidance on when to pull back on restrictions.

Meanwhile, Justin Trudeau has said that Canada is in no rush to reopen the border. The prime minister fears that a hasty reopening could cause a spike in cases. Canadians themselves are also hesitant about opening the border too quickly.

The prime minister has previously said 75 per cent of Canadians should be vaccinated before travel restrictions can ease. By the time the current Order in Counil's expiry date, that amount is expected to be at least partially vaccinated, with 20 per cent of Canadians fully vaccinated. By July 21, 75 per cent of Canadians are expected to be fully vaccinated.

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