Report: NHL's Talks with Canadian Govt. on Playoff Travel May Last Until June

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistApril 27, 2021

FILE - In this April 26, 2019, file photo, the Stanley Cup playoffs logo is seen on the ice during a light and sound check prior to Game 1 of an NHL hockey second-round playoff series between the New York Islanders and the Carolina Hurricanes, in New York. The NHL nailed down the final details of a playoff format if the season can resume on the same day word came out that another player has tested positive for the coronavirus.(AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)
Julio Cortez/Associated Press

The NHL is looking to avoid travel restrictions during the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs, but its negotiations with the Canadian government could extend through the opening rounds of the playoffs until June, according to Greg Wyshynski of ESPN.

"It's going to be down to the wire," a source said.

Canada currently requires anyone traveling into the country to quarantine for 14 days amid the COVID-19 pandemic. This would be impossible in the middle of a playoff series that would presumably feature the two teams traveling back and forth between home games. 

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said Tuesday the league can alter the plans if necessary.

"If we can't travel in Canada, either as among the provinces or from the U.S. to Canada and back, we'll make whatever adjustments we have to do to get the playoffs completed. But obviously, as it has been, it's wildly unpredictable," Bettman said.

The current format features teams only facing divisional opponents for the first two rounds of the playoffs, which begin in mid-May. Travel isn't an issue since all seven Canadian teams play in the North division this season and will continue to battle each other until the Stanley Cup Semifinal.

The third round of the playoffs would feature the first inter-divisional games, creating the first challenges for the travel laws.

According to Wyshynski, the NHL's first plan is to negotiate with the Canadian government to loosen restrictions to allow for the usual 2-2-1-1-1 series format.

Without a change in rules, the league will relocate the Canadian team to a United States city that would serve as host for the team's home games for the remainder of the playoffs. This would represent a near opposite from the 2020 playoffs, which were exclusively held in Canada in Edmonton and Toronto.