The NHL will be able to play in Canada, as needed, for the final two rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs after a decision by the Canadian government Sunday to allow for cross-border travel.
The decision allows United States-based teams to travel to Canada to play games, starting with the Stanley Cup Semifinals. Those teams will be subject to enhanced protocols.
“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,” NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said Sunday.
The Winnipeg Jets and Montreal Canadians are the two Canada-based teams remaining in the postseason. They are playing each other in the second round, with the Canadiens holding a 2-0 lead in the best-of-7 series. The winner will play the winner of the Vegas Golden Knights-Colorado Avalanche series. The Avalanche lead 2-1.
The border has been closed to non-essential travel since March 19, 2020. Currently, travelers arriving in Canada face a mandatory 14-day quarantine.
Arrival by private jet for the United States-based team, daily COVID-19 testing and a modified quarantine bubble for the arriving team are part of the protocols. For the most part, teams visiting Canada will be limited to the hotel and the rink and interaction with the public will be limited as much as possible.
The NHL revised its divisional alignment for this season, creating the Scotia North Division, which housed all seven Canada-based teams. All play was intradivisional among the four divisions, eradicating the need to travel across the border.
The Toronto Blue Jays (MLB) and the Toronto FC, FC Montreal and Vancouver Whitecaps (MLS) have relocated to the United States to avoid cross-border travel and play regular-season games during their respective 2021 regular seasons.
The NHL conducted the 2020 postseason completely in Canada, using quarantine bubble setups in Toronto and Edmonton.
During the 2020-21 regular season, Canada-based teams played their games without fans present. In the second round, Montreal and Winnipeg have each allowed a limited number of fully vaccinated fans into the games. Montreal had 2,500 fans for its Game 6 victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round. Winnipeg allowed 500 fully vaccinated healthcare workers for Games 1 and 2 of the second round.