NHL hopes to have decision on Canadian border sooner rather than later

NHL hockey commissioner Gary Bettman, right, and deputy commissioner Bill Daly. (Wilfredo Lee, File/AP)

With the second round of the playoffs underway, the NHL continues to work toward a plan for U.S. teams to cross the Canadian border during the Stanley Cup Semifinals.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly says conversations remain ongoing and the league hopes to have a solution sooner rather than later.

"To this is point, it's increasing in frequency," Daly said of the discussions in an appearance on Sportsnet 650. "I think the people we're dealing with, both within the public health agencies and the various levels of the Canadian government, both federally and provincially and locally, understand that we need to be making those decisions sooner rather than later."

In an interview with POLITICO, Immigration minister Marco Mendicino said that talks with the NHL and MLB could result in “national interest exemptions,” which would allow players to avoid some of the pandemic-driven border measures as long as public health authorities accept the proposals.

“The decision is certainly being carefully considered,” Mendicino explained. “There needs to be rigorous due diligence with regards to the proposals which have been put forward by the NHL, by our public health officials. We’ll receive and review that advice very carefully before taking a decision.”

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security tweeted on May 20 that it was “working closely with Canada and Mexico to safely ease restrictions as conditions improve.” The federal government waived its mandatory 14-day quarantine period for players acquired by Canadian NHL teams from U.S. clubs ahead of the April 12 trade deadline.

Players had to observe a seven-day quarantine upon arrival in the country and were subject to daily testing for COVID-19. The winner of the second-round series between the Winnipeg Jets and Montreal Canadiens will face one of three U.S. division winners in the league semifinals.

If the NHL gets the approval, it would mark the first time the league will be able to have cross-border travel during the COVID-19 pandemic. Last summer, two hubs were created in Toronto and Edmonton with all U.S. teams crossing the border.

Daly is confident that the league and government will be able to get something worked out based on past conversations since the start of the pandemic.

"They understand the urgency involved and we hope that we have a direction certainly in the next little while," Daly said. "All I can say is, as has been the case really since the start of the pandemic in March of 2018, I think the Canadian government, at all levels, has worked in good faith with us and understood our issues and tried to work with us to help find solutions and, hopefully, we'll get there again with this one."

Listen the full interview with Daly where he also discusses the league's salary cap situation, the Canucks' COVID-19 outbreak and the Jake Virtanen situation using the audio player below.

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