Vancouver Canucks centre Bo Horvat (53) and Montreal Canadiens defenceman Jeff Petry (26) follow the puck during third period NHL action in Vancouver, Wednesday, March 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Vancouver Canucks centre Bo Horvat (53) and Montreal Canadiens defenceman Jeff Petry (26) follow the puck during third period NHL action in Vancouver, Wednesday, March 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

U.S.-Canada border decision looms in playoffs for NHL

The border remains closed to non-essential travel

A year after the pandemic temporarily shut down the NHL, a handful of roadblocks remain to handing out the Stanley Cup again this season — including the U.S.-Canada border.

The border remains closed to nonessential travel, an issue the NHL addressed before the 2021 season began in January by realigning its divisions. All seven teams in the North Division are based in Canada and they play against only each other through the first two rounds of the post-season.

But the league has a decision looming on what to do when a Canadian team faces a U.S. opponent in the third round of the playoffs. Talks are ongoing with Canadian government officials, though nothing needs to be settled yet since cross-border play won’t happen until mid-June.

“We’ve got a little bit of time to deal with this,” Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said during a video interview Thursday. “I can’t certainly promise any result, and we’ll work through the process and we’ll see what the result is and we’ll respond appropriately. But in terms of timeline, I don’t think there’s any kind of firm deadline that we have to meet to accomplish a change in plans if that’s necessary.”

One possibility includes the North Division champion that reaches the league’s final four playing its “home” games in a U.S. city. Or there could be some type of modified quarantine when teams cross the border.

Commissioner Gary Bettman said the NHL isn’t planning to hold the playoffs in any kind of a bubble like it did in Toronto and Edmonton last year but it could do something similar to that if necessary to accommodate Canadian regulations.

“We are going to try and maintain our flexibility and our agility,” Bettman said, “and we will be respectful of the process.”

The league has also said it won’t jump the line for vaccines, but some machinations are ongoing about what could happen once inoculations are available to the general public. D

“Like everything else, it’s kind of a work in progress, and I think it’s going to evolve in different stages based on the introduction of the vaccine,” said Daly, who believes several players with pre-existing conditions have already been vaccinated. “At some point we’ll get into a position, I would think and I would hope, where there’s widespread vaccination. I think our response to that will be in stages, as well, as to what that means and how we evolve our protocols.”

Those protocols have already changed this season, helping to cut the number of players on the COVID-19 protocol list from a season-high 59 on Feb. 12 to four on Wednesday. A total of 138 players have spent at least one day on the list. A total of 35 games have been postponed for virus-related reasons.

“We’ve navigated through the first two months of this season under extremely challenging conditions, and we’ve been on this every day with the medical experts and enhancing our protocols, and it’s gotten us to a better place,” Bettman said.

In matters more in the NHL’s control, Daly said the draft “more likely than not” will go on as scheduled July 23-24, despite concerns from some team executives about many prospects not playing this season.

___

AP Hockey Writer John Wawrow contributed.

Stephen Whyno, The Associated Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

CoronavirusNHL

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

An Interior Health nurse administers Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines to seniors and care aids in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16. Photo: Phil McLachlan/Kelowna Capital News
Interior Health opens up vaccine eligibility in Columbia Valley to 18 years or older

Only local residents can register and book appointments as COVID-19 case counts spike in the region

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
110 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Provincial health officers announced 1,005 new cases throughout B.C.

BGC Cranbrook will renovate a facility to relocate 24 existing spaces and add 24 new spaces with support from the Trust. Photo courtesy Columbia Basin Trust.
Grant funding to help create new childcare spaces in Cranbrook

Columbia Basin Trust providing $10,000 to BGC Cranbrook to help renovate new facility

Earlier this spring, the City of Cranbrook started positioning components of the Stormceptor system to carry storm runoff to Elizabeth Lake from the Innes Avenue neighbourhood. Photo submitted
Stormceptor will bring clean run-off to Elizabeth Lake

The City of Cranbrook is installing new infrastructure to handle the Innes Avenue neighbourhood, but go easy on Elizabeth lake

Interior Health nurses administer Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines to seniors and care aids in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16. (Phil McLachlan/Kelowna Capital News)
69 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

The total number of cases in the region is now at 9,840 since the pandemic began

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday December 8, 2020 in Ottawa. The stage is set for arguably the most important federal budget in recent memory, as the Liberal government prepares to unveil its plan for Canada’s post-pandemic recovery even as a third wave of COVID-19 rages across the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Election reticence expected to temper political battle over federal budget

Opposition parties have laid out their own demands in the weeks leading up to the budget

A syringe is loaded with COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to open up COVID vaccine registration to all B.C. residents 18+ in April

Registration does not equate to being able to book an appointment

(Black Press file photo).
UPDATED: Multiple stabbings at Vancouver Island bush party

Three youths hospitalized after an assault in Comox

Selina Robinson is shown in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday November 17, 2017. British Columbia’s finance minister says her professional training as a family therapist helped her develop the New Democrat government’s first budget during the COVID-19 pandemic, which she will table Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. finance minister to table historic pandemic-challenged deficit budget

Budget aims to take care of people during pandemic while preparing for post-COVID-19 recovery, Robinson said

Each spring, the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale is held in Penticton. This year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival will not be held. However, beer is still available. How much do you know about this beverage? (pxfuel.com)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about beer?

Put your knowledge to the test with this short quiz

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Most Read