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

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.

Kristian Camero and Jessica Wood, seen here, co-own The Black Cauldron with Stephen Barton. The new Nelson restaurant opened earlier this month while indoor dining is restricted by the province. Photo: Tyler Harper
A restaurant opens in Nelson, and no one is allowed inside

The Black Cauldron opened while indoor dining is restricted in B.C.

These two city-owned houses on Railway Avenue in the Railtown district will be sold. Photo: Bill Metcalfe
City of Nelson will sell two derelict houses in Railtown

Purchasers will be responsible for demolition and slope stability issues

First-year Selkirk College student Terra-Mae Box is one of many talented writers who will read their work at the Black Bear Review’s annual (virtual) launch on April 22. Photo: Submitted
A grant from the province will fund the installation of lighting and electrical in the stage at Cottonwood Park and the construction of a washroom. Photo: Bill Metcalfe
City of Nelson receives grant for washroom and electrical at Cottonwood Falls Park stage

Grant will also fund concession stand and parking improvements

Rainbow trouts thrashing with life as they’re about to be transferred to the largest lake of their lives, even though it’s pretty small. These rainbows have a blue tinge because they matched the blue of their hatchery pen, but soon they’ll take on the green-browns of their new home at Lookout Lake. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
VIDEO: B.C. lake stocked with hatchery trout to delight of a seniors fishing club

The Cherish Trout Scouts made plans to come back fishing soon

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

Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops. (Dave Eagles/Kamloops This Week file photo)
RCMP intercept vehicle fleeing with infant taken from Kamloops hospital

The baby was at the hospital receiving life-saving care

Vancouver Police Const. Deepak Sood is under review by the Independent Investigations Office of B.C. after making comments to a harm reduction advocate Sunday, April 11. (Screen grab)
VIDEO: Vancouver officer convicted of uttering threats under watchdog review again

Const. Deepak Sood was recorded Sunday saying ‘I’ll smack you’ and ‘go back to selling drugs’ to a harm reduction advocate

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate persists, 1,005 new cases Friday

Hospitalization up to 425, six more virus-related deaths

Premier John Horgan receives a dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at the pharmacy in James Bay Thrifty’s Foods in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, April 16, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. Premier John Horgan gets AstraZeneca shot, encourages others

27% of residents in B.C. have now been vaccinated against COVID-19

The Nautical Dog Cafe at Skaha marina is getting its patio ready in hopes Mother Nature will provide where provincial restrictions have taken away indoor dining. (Facebook)
‘A lot of instability’: B.C. restaurants in layoff limbo

As COVID-19 cases stay high, restaurants in British Columbia are closed to indoor dining

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks on as Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Expectations high as Trudeau Liberals get ready to unveil first pandemic budget

The Liberals will look to thread an economic needle with Monday’s budget

Since April 4, 38 flights with COVID-19 cases have departed from Vancouver International Airport, while 23 arrived. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Vancouver the largest source of domestic flights with COVID-19 cases: data

This month alone, 38 flights with COVID-19 cases have departed from Vancouver International Airport, while 23 arrived

Most Read