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NHL’s return to play plans could be complicated by international travel restrictions

NHL's return to play plans could be complicated by international travel restrictions

There could be logistical headaches for the NHL if North American travel restrictions carry into July

The NHL is still working to finalize an official return to play proposal that would need to be approved by the NHLPA, and the league is reportedly still more than a week away from deciding on a format for restart. Now, their plans may be further complicated by the extension of international travel bans this week.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Tuesday that border restrictions prohibiting non-essential travel between the U.S. and Canada will stay in effect through June 21. It's the second time Trudeau has extended the restrictions since they were first put into place on March 18.

NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said he hopes that the announcement won't have a significant impact on the league's plans and timeline for restart plan. Despite Daly's optimism, the league would likely face logistical headaches if the border restrictions are extended into July. Six Canadian teams (Toronto, Montreal, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver) would factor into the NHL's favored 24-team playoff format, which could lead to border restrictions complicating plans to return in July.

Many players have also left their team's city and returned home to quarantine/isolate during the pandemic, meaning the travel restrictions could also create headaches for players who need to travel internationally to return to their club. According to the Associated Press, about 17-percent of NHL players are quarantining outside of North America.

The league has been targeting early July for a return to play scenario, though a source told CBS Sports that mid-July is now being viewed as the most optimistic scenario. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said he intends on awarding a Stanley Cup this season and isn't even considering canceling the season at this point, even if it means the playoffs extend into September.

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