The federal government announced Tuesday the extension of the Canada-U.S. border closure for another 30 days, but Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the nation is open to the idea of having an NHL hub city despite the ongoing restrictions.
The Canada-U.S. border has been closed to all non-essential travel since March 21, and has now been extended three times in 30-day increments amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Trudeau’s latest announcement will see the border remain closed until July 21, which raised questions about possible hockey-related consequences.
Of the 10 NHL cities being considered as a potential hub destination, three are located north of the border: Vancouver, Edmonton and Toronto. The league has expressed a desire to have one hub city in Canada and one in the U.S., but the border closure has been a major obstacle — particularly when it comes to Canada’s 14-day quarantine rule currently in place for all incoming travellers. No official ruling has yet been released about whether the government will ease that quarantine rule for incoming teams.
Trudeau noted that while Canada is supportive of hosting an NHL hub, the decision is ultimately up to both the league as well as the province and city’s health authorities.
Following Trudeau’s media availability, Ontario’s heritage, sport, tourism and culture minister, Lisa MacLeod, tweeted out a statement in support of Toronto’s bid to host.
Vegas is reportedly set to be named as one of two hubs, with an official announcement expected from the league soon. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, upon announcing the cities being considered last month as the league rolled out its four-phased plan to resume the 2019-20 season with a 24-team playoff, indicated a three- to four-week timeline for the league to make its decision.
The NHL is currently in Phase 2 of its return-to-play protocol, which means players can now participate in voluntary on- and off-ice training session at teams’ practice facilities at each organization’s discretion and with extensive health and safety guidelines in place.