Negotiations that would grant the winner of the NHL's all-Canadian division and an American-based opponent special exemptions for cross-border travel into Canada are ongoing, according to reports.
Two sources within the federal government, speaking anonymously because they are not able to speak publicly, told the Canadian Press that this exemption would allow teams still in the Stanley Cup playoffs entrance into Canada without having to isolate, as is currently required for all non-essential travellers.
The Winnipeg Jets, having dispatched the Edmonton Oilers, await the winner of Monday night's Game 7 between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens. The victor of that series would then face off against an American opponent in the semifinals, and, with a victory there, the finals too.
Canadian fans first returned this weekend
Fans first returned to an NHL arena in Canada on Saturday night, when 2,500 fans were in attendance when Montreal defeated Toronto in overtime.
The NHL has been seeking an exemption from public health authorities not just federally, but also in Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba, as well as the cities where the teams play, which would grant the teams a special status to skip the typical quarantine protocols.
NHL given leeway
Previously, teams were given unique permission to dine indoors at restaurants, something that has been forbidden throughout much of Canada. The league also achieved leeway with quarantine rules surrounding the movement of players between teams during the trade deadline earlier this year.
League considered temporary relocation
Having placed Canadian teams in their own division, the NHL at one point considered relocating Canadian teams to the U.S. for the final two rounds of the playoffs. A number of other Canada-based sports teams, like Major League Baseball's Toronto Blue Jays, or the Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver clubs from Major League Soccer, have temporarily relocated their operations south of the border.
A playoff series pitting one of Winnipeg, Toronto or Montreal against an American competitor will be the first time regular cross-border travel will happen in the NHL since the declaration of the COVID-19 pandemic. Last season, things concluded inside of a “bubble,” with games held in the hub cities of Edmonton and Toronto.