Canucks considering holding training camp in the U.S. due to Canadian quarantine rules
VANCOUVER -- The general manager of the Vancouver Canucks says the team is weighing the possibility of holding its training camp south of the border if the National Hockey League and the Canadian government can't reach an agreement to modify federal guidelines around a mandatory 14-day quarantine period for all travellers entering Canada.
Jim Benning made the remarks during a conference call with reporters Wednesday morning after conceding the mandatory quarantine rule would set returning European and American players back when it comes to conditioning and fitness because they wouldn't be allowed to leave their homes to attend team training facilities during that time.
"It's a big concern for us and I talked to (head coach Travis Green) about it last night. We worry about it because that's 14 days before we're going to start a gruelling training camp and get into playing playoff style games," Benning said. "Basically we're telling our players they have to sit around their homes or apartments and they can't do the type of training that they need to get ready for an NHL training camp."
The league told players they could return to their home countries in March when the season was suspended and many of the Canucks' top players travelled to Europe and the United States.
On Tuesday, the league unveiled a four-phase plan for a 24-team tournament to award the Stanley Cup, with all games being played in arenas in two host cities with no fans in attendance.
Commissioner Gary Bettman specifically mentioned Vancouver as one possible host city, but league officials have also said Canada's mandatory quarantine period would rule out games being played in Canada.
The league has said it is in discussions with the federal government about modifying the rules to allow players to train together during their quarantine period.
At the moment, all travellers arriving in Canada are directed to self-isolate for 14 days and anyone found in violation of the order could be subject to a $750,000 fine and/or six months in prison.
If the league and the federal government are unable to reach an agreement, the Canucks could decide to hold all their pre-tournament training activities in the United States at a location near whichever city the league selects for western conference teams to play in.
"It's something that we’re thinking about but also we just want to give it a few more days to see if something is going to change," he said. "In a perfect scenario, we'd like to use our facilities."
CTV News reached out to the Prime Minister’s Office to see if it is considering modifying the quarantine rules for NHL players, but the PMO deferred to the Office of the Minister of Canadian Heritage, which sent a statement saying conversations are ongoing.
“We understand that Canadians are eager to see their favorite sport teams return to play. The health and safety of all Canadians, including our athletes, remain our top priority. We would like to thank the NHL and NHLPA for their constant collaboration and commitment to the health and safety of all. We’ve been having productive conversations with them about their plans to resume the season. There are more conversations to be had,” the statement said. “We will continue to work with them, as well as provinces and territories, to ensure that we are not taking any actions that would put Canadians at risk of contracting or transmitting COVID-19.”
Phase two of the league's plan to start up again calls for players to report to their teams to begin informal on ice sessions in small groups of up to six at a time.
In phase three, teams can hold a full training camp and in phase four actual games will be played.
No firm timeline has been given for any of the phases.
Once play resumes, the Canucks are set to play a five-game series against the Minnesota Wild with the winner earning a berth in the round of 16 and chance to carry on and potentially win the Stanley Cup.