NHL teams will no longer play games that require teams to cross the U.S.–Canada border due to the “fluid nature of federal travel restrictions” starting on Monday (Dec. 20).
Currently, all travellers into Canada must take a COVID-19 test at their arrival airport and media reports say that Ottawa is considering a further travel ban. There is currently a travel advisory against leaving Canada for non-essential purposes.
The cross-border game postponement will run until the season breaks for the holidays on Dec. 23. The postponed games include:
Monday, Dec. 20: Montreal @ NY Islanders; Anaheim @ Edmonton
Tuesday, Dec. 21: St. Louis @ Ottawa; Vancouver @ San Jose
Wednesday, Dec. 22: Montreal @ NY Rangers; Winnipeg @ Dallas; Edmonton @ Los Angeles
Thursday, Dec. 23: St. Louis @ Toronto; Carolina @ Ottawa; Montreal @ New Jersey; Anaheim @ Vancouver;
Edmonton @ San Jose
The moves comes just a day after the league and its Players’ Association announced that NHL players and teams will need to adhere to “enhanced measures” to prevent the spread of COVID-19 until at least Jan. 7.
The new rules are a return to last year’s safety protocols, the league stated, and apply to both vaccinated and unvaccinated players. The move comes after the Montreal Canadiens began to play without spectators this week, while the Vancouver Canucks postponed this weekend’s games.
Masks must be worn at all times in league facilities and during travel, including on buses, planes and at the hotel. N95, K95 or surgical masks are strongly recommended over cloth ones.
Physical distancing – at least one chair apart – must be enforced during meals and players and staff are prohibited from eating or drinking indoors at restaurants and bars that are open to the public, the league stated, unless in a private room with members of the public further than 12 feet away.
“While with the team on the road, other permissible options for dining are outdoor dining; eating and drinking in the club’s private meal room at the hotel; ordering room service; and third-party food delivery services,” the new rules state.
Other rules target meetings, which are to be virtual. If they must be in person, they must be brief and well ventilated. Access to locker rooms and the bench will be limited to just players and staff travelling with them and holiday gatherings have been banned.
In general, the new restrictions discourage any mingling with the community both on the road and at home.
Players and those who travel with them, as well as physical therapists and equipment managers, must be tested daily, preferably with a point-of-care molecular test.
“Additional pre-game testing may be implemented, on a case-by-case basis, when a COVID outbreak occurs within a team, after consultation with the NHL and NHLPA,” the rules state, noting that symptomatic individuals will be tested daily until they no longer test positive. A negative molecular test will be required before a travelling player, staff member or a close contact can re-enter a club facility after a day off from testing.
However, players will not be tested during the 90 days following a confirmed case of COVID-19.