NHL, Canada reach deal for cross-border playoff travel

Jun 4, 2021; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; Winnipeg Jets forward Andrew Copp (9) shoots wide of Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price (31) during the first period in game two of the second round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Bell MTS Place. Mandatory Credit: Terrence Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The NHL announced an agreement with the Canadian government for a travel exemption to allow teams to cross the U.S.-Canada border for the remainder of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the border has been closed to nonessential travel since March 2020. The Canadian and American governments recently agreed to extend that ban through June 21.

The NHL realigned for one season so that all seven Canadian clubs would form a North Division and cross-border travel would not be necessary.

Now, the Stanley Cup Playoffs are down to eight teams, two from each division. The winner of the Montreal Canadiens-Winnipeg Jets series will face an American club in the Stanley Cup semifinals, either the Colorado Avalanche or the Vegas Golden Knights.

Canada agreed to let American NHL teams enter the country for games, but those teams will be subject to strict health protocols, including daily COVID-19 testing. The American teams must stay in a “modified quarantine bubble” while in Canada, not interacting with the general public.

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“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 semifinals and, potentially, the Final, to host games in their own rinks,” the NHL said in a statement.

During the regular season, Canadian arenas did not allow fans, but are gradually loosening those restrictions as vaccinations increase. Winnipeg allowed 500 fully vaccinated healthcare workers at the first two games in the series between the Jets and Canadiens, while Montreal allowed 2,500 for in its most recent home game against Toronto.

–Field Level Media