The National Hockey League is preparing to change its playoff plans if COVID-19 restrictions are to prohibit travel between Canadian provinces or round-trip travel to the United States.
During a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said the venues for the games would depend, among other things, on government directives.
If the NHL is unable to travel to Canada, either between provinces or from the United States to Canada and vice versa, the league will make the necessary adjustments to ensure the completion of the playoffs, the commissioner said.
Bettman called the situation “completely unpredictable,” adding that it changes daily.
The NHL has addressed the cross-border regular season travel problem by consolidating all seven Canadian teams into one section for the entire regular season. This concept will remain in place for the first two playoff rounds.
Thus, according to the adopted plan, the Canadian team will not have to cross the Canadian-American border until June. In addition, rumors began to circulate that the first two playoff rounds in the Northern Section could take place in a protected environment.
Compared to the United States, Canada is lagging behind in the rollout of mass vaccinations. According to the latest data, 2.71% of the Canadian population is fully immunized, compared with just under 29% in the United States.
This discrepancy has prevented the NHL from relaxing its virus-related protocols for teams that have reached a certain vaccination threshold, as in the case of the NFL, NBA and Major Baseball, where all teams play in the United States.