NHL, Canadian government reach agreement for cross-border travel ahead of Stanley Cup semifinals

The NHL has reached an agreement with the Canadian government to allow for cross-border travel beginning with the Stanley Cup semifinals, the league announced Sunday.

NHL teams coming from the United States will be able to play in Canada, but are subject to enhanced health protocols. The team must arrive on a private plane and will be subject to daily COVID-19 testing. Once in Canada, the American-based teams will live in a "modified quarantine bubble" and have no contact with the general public.

"The National Hockey League is very appreciative of the decision by the Canadian government and the Federal health officials to allow the Canadian team that advances to the Stanley Cup Semifinals and, potentially, the Final, to host games in their own rinks," the NHL said in a statement.

The NHL had to rearrange its divisions and playoff format this season as travel between the United States and Canada remained closed for nonessential purposes. However, the NHL has been negotiating with the Canadian federal government, as well as public health authorities, over the past several weeks.

Currently, the Canadian government requires all foreign travelers to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.

Other Canadian professional sports teams, in MLB and MLS, have had to relocate to the U.S. to avoid cross-border travel.

The winner of the Montreal Canadiens versus Winnipeg Jets second-round series is scheduled to play the winner of the series between the Vegas Golden Knights and Colorado Avalanche in the next round.

The revised playoff format -- in which all playoff rounds have been intradivisional thus far -- has allowed for some unusual matchups. For example, there's a possibility the Boston Bruins could face the Montreal Canadians in the Stanley Cup Final.

A Canadian team has not won a Stanley Cup since 1993, when Montreal last won it.

During the regular season, no Canadian-based NHL team allowed fans in its arena. That's slowly changing, though the crowds in Canadian venues are still smaller than U.S. crowds. There were 17,000-plus fans in attendance at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas for Golden Knights games this week. The Quebec government has allowed for 2,500 fans at Canadiens games, while Winnipeg allowed 500 fully vaccinated healthcare workers for the Jets' past two games.