Premier Kenney asks Trudeau to exempt NHL athletes from travel restrictions

May 27 2020, 6:07 pm

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has penned another letter in support of bringing the NHL to Edmonton, this time writing directly to the prime minister.

Kenney wrote a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Wednesday, just one day after NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced in a press conference that Edmonton was one of 10 cities under consideration as an NHL “hub city.”

Prior to the announcement, Kenney had pledged his support for Edmonton’s bid in a letter to Bettman, stating that Alberta has been a “star performer in North America on the public health response to the pandemic.”

Kenney’s key request is that the prime minister and the Canadian government work alongside Alberta to help facilitate the NHL playoffs this summer.

In order to make the playoffs possible, Kenney asks that NHL players and personnel be exempt from travel restrictions currently in place — a move that has already been made in the United States.

“On May 22, 2020, the Government of the United States, through Acting Homeland Security Wolf, allowed for an exemption that enabled the entry of certain foreign professional athletes, their staff, and league leadership into the United States,” said Kenney in the letter.

“Such an exemption from the Canadian government would be necessary to enable the OEG bid to play host to the NHL playoffs.”

Kenney added that Alberta has done relatively well in response to the coronavirus, and in particular, Edmonton has seen a low number of cases.

“As you are aware, Alberta began it’s phased relaunch of our economy on May 14, and there have been no measurable increases in the case numbers for coronavirus in the province,” he added.

“New COVID-19 cases in Edmonton are averaging one per day, with recovered cases far outweighing any new infections.”

Kenney went on to add that Edmonton’s “Ice District” downtown allows for an additional level of public safety, with hotels that connect directly to Roger’s Place, allowing for a “quarantine zone.”

In yesterday’s NHL press conference, Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly mentioned reaching an “understanding with the Canadian government” in terms of travel, although this is yet to be confirmed by Prime Minister Trudeau.

“We’ve reached an understanding with the Canadian government that players can cross the Canadian border, as well, both internationally from overseas but also from the United States so they can return to their home city without a problem,” said Daly.

“The one issue that we continue to work actively on is the mandatory federal quarantine that is in place in Canada for all people who travel into Canada, and we are having various discussions with various different departments, the Canadian government. We don’t have a resolution there, but it’s an ongoing dialogue for sure.”

What remains an issue in Canada if travel restrictions are lifted for athletes and personnel is the 14-day quarantine requirement in place across the country.

Daly mentioned the quarantine requirements as a key barrier to bringing the NHL playoffs to Canada.

“The interpretation of the quarantine consistent with our players’ ability to travel in and not have to do a strict self‑quarantine in a hotel room, I don’t think we’d be in a position ‑‑ I shouldn’t say I don’t think. We won’t be in a position to use any of the Canadian cities as a hub city,” he added.

“We’re faced with having to find a solution to that, and hopefully we can.”

Regardless of location, hockey fans are eager to find out when the NHL playoffs will commence.

Bettman had indicated that the qualifying round could begin in July, with the Cup handed out later in the summer or even into the fall. The following season will almost certainly be delayed, possibly as late as November or December, he said.

With files from Rob Williams

Rumneek JohalRumneek Johal

+ News
+ Offside
+ Hockey