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, 2021. (Phil McLachlan/Kelowna Capital News)
105 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health

Just over 8,000 new vaccine doses administered in the region for a total of 158,000 to date

The small fire was in the Big Eddy. (Contributed)
Revelstoke grass fire extinguished

The blaze is the first of the season in our area

Twin falls in Yoho National Park. Yoho is one of the mountain parks whose draft management plan is now available for review. (Claire Palmer photo)
Local input sought to shape future of mountain national parks

Banff, Yoho, Kootenay, Mount Revelstoke and Glacier national parks are amongst those seeking input

The city has decided to apply to have the Jordan River area withdrawn from Crown Land disposition, which would put the decision on how the land is used and protected in the hands of the city. (File photo)
City of Revelstoke applying to withdraw Jordan River from Crown Land

At the moment the province has control over what is developed in the area

Arlene Howe holds up a picture of her son, Steven, at a memorial event for drug overdose victims and their families at Kelowna’s Rotary Beach Park on April 14. Steven died of an overdose at the age of 32 on Jan. 31, 2015. (Aaron Hemens - Kelowna Capital News)
Moms Stop the Harm members placed crosses Wednesday morning, April 14, on Rotary Beach in memory of children lost to drug overdoses. (Aaron Hemens - Capital News)
Kelowna mothers remember children lost to the opioid crisis

It has been five years since illicit drug deaths was announced a public health emergency

Demonstrators at the legislature on April 14 called on the province to decriminalize drug possession and provide widespread access to regulated safe supply across B.C. (Jake Romphf/News Staff)
Rally calls for decriminalization, safe supply on 5th anniversary of overdose emergency declaration

From 2016 to the end of February, 7,072 British Columbians died due to overdose

A Keremeos family lost their home after a fire shortly before midnight on April 13. No injuries were reported. (Contributed)
Keremeos home destroyed in late-night fire

The family inside was unharmed

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

Naloxone
Op/Ed: Interior Health CEO speaks on five years of strides and challenges in overdose crisis

In 2020, close to 4,000 people across IH had access to opioid medications

Somewhere in the pack being celebrated by his teammates is Vernon Vipers forward Zack Tonelli, who scored in overtime Wednesday afternoon, April 14, to give the Snakes a 6-5 win over the Salmon Arm Silverbacks in B.C. Hockey League pod play at Kal Tire Place. (Liza Mazurek - Vernon Vipers Photography)
Vernon Vipers bite Salmon Arm Silverbacks in OT

Snakes blow 5-3 third-period lead, rally in extra time for 6-5 pod play result over rivals

(Government of Canada)
Liberal MP caught stark naked during House of Commons video conference

William Amos, in Quebec, appeared on the screens of his fellow members of Parliament completely naked

New parking meters have been installed on Main Street, Ellis Street, Front Street, Nanaimo Avenue and Padmore Avenue in Penticton. (City of Penticton photo)
Pay parking now in effect in downtown Penticton

A spot downtown will now cost you $2 per hour

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Feb. 1, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count jumps to 1,168 Wednesday, nearly 400 in hospital

Now 120 coronavirus patients in intensive care, six more deaths

Most Read