NHL return to play plans may be complicated by restrictions on international travel

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The NHL is still working on finalizing an official return-to-play proposal which is expected to be approved by the NHLPA, and the league would still be more than a week away from deciding on a restart format. Now their plans could be complicated by the extension of the foreign travel bans this week.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Tuesday that border restrictions prohibiting non-essential travel between the United States and Canada will remain in effect until June 21. This is the second time that Trudeau has extended the restrictions since their introduction on March 18.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said he hoped the announcement would not have a significant impact on league plans and the timing of the restart plan. Despite Daly’s optimism, the league would likely face logistical headaches if border restrictions were extended until July. Six Canadian teams (Toronto, Montreal, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver) would consider the favorite format of the 24 NHL team playoffs, which could lead to border restrictions complicating plans to return in July.

Many players have also left the city of their team and returned home to quarantine / isolate during the pandemic, which means travel restrictions could also create headaches for players who have to travel to stranger to return to their club. According to the Associated Press, about 17% of NHL players are in quarantine outside of North America.

The league targeted early July for a return to play scenario, although a source told CBS Sports that mid-July is now considered the most optimistic scenario. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said he intends to award a Stanley Cup this season and is not even considering canceling the season at this point, even if that means the playoffs will continue until September.



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