Some NHL teams are coming up with alternate routes across the US-Canada border this playoff season to avoid mandatory COVID-19 testing for international flights entering the US.
The Toronto Maple Leafs and Edmonton Oilers both avoided testing requirements by taking buses across the border into the US before then catching flights to continue their series in Tampa Bay and Los Angeles, respectively.
Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe told CBC, “I think the biggest thing at this point of the year really is just to do all that we can to avoid any false positives or anything that might come up that would impact our group.”
Keefe said his team was following the lead of the Toronto Blue Jays and the Toronto Raptors’ both of which crossed the border into Buffalo by bus before flying to their destinations for away games during their seasons.
The Edmonton Oilers had a multi-leg journey beginning after their game Wednesday night, when the team flew from Edmonton to Vancouver where they stayed overnight in a hotel before bussing across the border to Washington State and then catching a plane to LA. A trip with a total transit time of approximately six hours—not including overnight stays—whereas a direct flight from Edmonton to LA takes approximately three and a half hours.
Oilers head coach Jay Woodcroft told reporters players were involved in the travel decisions and enjoyed the travel day, “we thought it was the smartest move for our group,” he said.
The other teams in international matchups, including the Tampa Bay Lightning, Calgary Flames, LA Kings and Dallas Stars opted for flights, accepting testing requirements for less travel time. No player has tested positive following that decision.
At the start of the season in October, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced only four players in the league were unvaccinated. Of those four, only Oilers forward Josh Archibald, is playing in the post-season this year. Archibald received a vaccine exemption because of a heart condition known as myocarditis after contracting COVID-19 last year. He has since been cleared to play both in the US and Canada.
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