- Emily Kaplan is ESPN’s national NHL reporter.
The NHL has reached an agreement with the Canadian government to allow for cross-border travel beginning with the Stanley Cup semifinals, the league announced on Sunday.
NHL teams coming from the United States will be able to play in Canada, but are subject to enhanced health protocols. The team must arrive on a private plane and will be subject to daily COVID-19 testing. Once in Canada, the American-based teams will live in a “modified quarantine bubble” and have no contact with the general public.
“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.
The NHL had to rearrange its divisions and playoff format this season as the United States and Canada remained closed for nonessential travel. However the NHL has been negotiating with the Canadian federal government, as well as public health authorities, over the last several weeks.
Currently, the Canadian government requires all foreign travelers to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.
Other Canadian professional sports teams, in MLB and MLS, have had to relocate to the U.S. to avoid cross-border travel.
The winner of the Montreal Canadiens versus Winnipeg Jets second round series is scheduled to play the winner of Vegas Golden Knights versus Colorado Avalanche in the next round.
The revised playoff format – in which all playoff rounds have been intra-divisional thus far – has allowed for some unusual matchups. For example, there’s a possibility the Boston Bruins could face the Montreal Canadians in the Stanley Cup final.
A Canadian team has not won a Stanley Cup since 1993, when Montreal last won.
During the regular season, no Canadian-based NHL team allowed fans in the arenas. That’s slowly changing, though it’s still not like crowds in the U.S., where 17,000-plus fans were in T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas for Golden Knights games this week. The Quebec government has allowed for 2,500 fans at games while Winnipeg allowed 500 fully-vaccinated healthcare workers for the last two games.
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