Hockey Skates Around Quarantine Rules Even Trudeau Is Following
(Bloomberg) -- In Canada, hockey transcends everything -- even the rules a prime minister has to live by.
Justin Trudeau has doggedly stuck to border restrictions during the pandemic, including a measure to set up quarantine hotels, where air travelers are required to stay when they first arrive. But the government is now giving an exemption to National Hockey League teams, allowing them to go back and forth between Canada and the U.S. during the remainder of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The announcement means the Canadian team that makes it to the league’s semi-finals will be able to play games in its home arena. Players and team staff will have to remain in a bubble and avoid contact with the general public.
“The NHL’s Covid Playoff Protocol will permit cross-border travel that is safeguarded by strict quarantining, a bubble, daily testing and a comprehensive protocol that will apply to all traveling NHL players and personnel,” Alexander Cohen, a spokesperson for Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino, said in an emailed statement Sunday.
It represents a first move in reopening the border and a privilege that has yet to be given to other sports. Baseball’s Toronto Blue Jays are playing their home games in Buffalo, New York, while the Toronto Raptors basketball team endured a miserable season playing in Tampa, Florida. Professional soccer clubs from Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver have had to temporarily set up in the U.S. in order to play in Major League Soccer.
Canada’s border with the U.S., the world’s longest, has been closed to most non-essential travel since March 2020. When people do cross into Canada, they are supposed to quarantine for two weeks. Trudeau himself plans to quarantine when he returns from the Group of Seven leaders summit in the United Kingdom.
All season long, Canada’s seven NHL teams have played only among themselves in a separate North Division to avoid travel into the U.S. Two rounds of playoff hockey will produce one Canadian team to compete in the last four.
The storied Montreal Canadiens -- the second most successful franchise in North American major sports, after the New York Yankees -- are currently playing the Winnipeg Jets to determine which club moves on to play an American rival.
Last year’s playoffs, held before a Covid-19 vaccine was available, were played in Toronto and Edmonton, Alberta.
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