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 Canada's government Sunday to issue an exemption for cross-border travel.
The decision allows teams to cross the United States-Canada border for games under a modified quarantine, starting with the Stanley Cup Semifinals. The teams will also 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 Montreal Canadiens, the No. 4 seed in the Scotia North Division, swept the Winnipeg Jets, the No. 3 seed, in the best-of-7 Stanley Cup Second Round to advance to the semifinals. Montreal will play the winner of the Vegas Golden Knights-Colorado Avalanche series, which Vegas leads 3-2.
The border has been closed to nonessential travel since March 19, 2020. Currently, travelers arriving in Canada face a mandatory 14-day quarantine.
Arrival to and departure from Canada by private jet, daily COVID-19 testing, and a modified quarantine bubble for the teams are part of the protocols. For the most part, teams playing in Canada in the semifinals, and potentially the Stanley Cup Final, 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, including the creation of the North Division, which consisted of all seven Canada-based teams. All play was intradivisional among the four divisions, eliminating the need to travel across the United States-Canada border.
The Toronto Blue Jays (MLB) and Toronto FC, FC Montreal and the Vancouver Whitecaps (MLS) have relocated to the United States to avoid cross-border travel and play regular-season games during the 2021 regular season.
The NHL conducted the 2020 postseason completely in Canada, using quarantine bubble setups in Toronto and Edmonton.
During the 2020-21 regular season, the seven North Division teams played their games without fans present. The Canadiens and Jets each allowed a limited number of fully vaccinated fans into their most recent games. Montreal had 2,500 fans for its Game 6 victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Stanley Cup First Round and for Game 3 and Game 4 of the second round, and Winnipeg allowed 500 health care workers for Game 1 and Game 2 of the second round.