Winnipeg Jets’ Andrew Copp (9) and Edmonton Oilers goaltender Mike Smith (41) watch an incoming shot during second period NHL action in Winnipeg, Monday, April 26, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Greenslade

Winnipeg Jets’ Andrew Copp (9) and Edmonton Oilers goaltender Mike Smith (41) watch an incoming shot during second period NHL action in Winnipeg, Monday, April 26, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Greenslade

‘Very jealous’: Canadian teams can’t take advantage of NHL’s relaxed COVID-19 rules

League eased some tight COVID-19 health and safety protocols over the weekend for fully vaccinated clubs

Winnipeg Jets winger Andrew Copp is envious.

Edmonton Oilers defenceman Tyson Barrie, meanwhile, described the situation as “awesome” for the teams in question.

And Toronto Maple goalie Jack Campbell is simply glad to see life shifting back to normal — just not for NHL players in Canada.

The league eased some of its tight COVID-19 health and safety protocols over the weekend for clubs that have been fully vaccinated. But because of the decidedly slower rollout to get shots in arms north of the border, Canadian franchises won’t be enjoying the same freedoms as some of their U.S.-based counterparts any time soon.

“Very jealous,” said Copp, who was born and raised in Michigan. “If you look at my social media, Instagram and Twitter, I see my family and my friends living a normal life right now. Very jealous of that.

“Happy for the guys in the States that are playing hockey to be able to live their lives as much as possible.”

Barrie said even though teams in Canada are still bound by the same directives they’ve been adhering to since training camp — daily testing, physical distancing and limited contact with teammates outside the rink — that were beefed up further amid a rash of coronavirus outbreaks in February, the league’s move is a good sign.

“There’s a lot of teams down there that are vaccinated,” he said. “We’ve been in these protocols for a long time, so if it’s safe and everyone’s able to do it, then absolutely it’s an exciting time to be able to get back out there and support some businesses and try to get this thing back on track.”

The relaxing of NHL protocols announced Saturday takes effect once 85 per cent or more of a team’s travelling party has been fully vaccinated. The changes include loosened restrictions on indoor and outdoor dining, testing frequency, mask-wearing and quarantine requirements.

“It’s nice to see them doing some normal things,” said Campbell, who’s also from Michigan. “Whatever we’re able to do, we’re fortunate to have a great group. We have a lot of fun. We’ve done things the right way all season, but we still have fun in the right circumstances.

“Just fortunate to be healthy.”

All members of the Leafs were eligible to be vaccinated starting Sunday because the team’s practice facility is located in one of Ontario’s designated COVID-19 hot spots. The Montreal Canadiens, meanwhile, are expected to begin getting their shots Thursday after Quebec lowered age restrictions.

“There’s more and more shots readily available,” Toronto forward Jason Spezza added. “It shows signs of us healing as a community and getting closer to a return to normalcy.”

READ MORE: NHL relaxing virus protocols for vaccinated playoff teams

But only teams that have had a second dose will be deemed fully vaccinated in the eyes of the NHL, so players in Canada, where daily life remains far from normal due to wide-ranging restrictions, are still a long way from meeting for meals at restaurants or hanging out inside each other’s houses.

But despite the protocols remaining the same in the Canadian-based North Division — a one-time-only circuit created because of pandemic-related border restrictions — Montreal winger Paul Byron doesn’t take issue with U.S. teams having more freedoms with the playoffs just over the horizon.

“The rules are different, the government rules are different,” said Byron, the Canadiens’ NHL Players’ Association representative. “Life is just different for us. I don’t think it’s an unfair advantage or anything like that, it just is what it is.

“You’ve got to make the most of it.”

Winnipeg head coach Paul Maurice added it would be pointless for players and coaches in the U.S. to continue with protocols like masking for no reason.

“In a perfect world we’d all be on the same circumstances,” he said.

Under the NHL’s new regulations, fully vaccinated individuals can dine outdoors or inside — in a private area with masked servers — visit a teammate or coach’s hotel room, play golf and have other social gatherings without masking or distancing requirements. Team staff also won’t have to quarantine for potential exposure or be subject to testing on off days.

Roughly one-third of Americans have been fully vaccinated compared to about three per cent in Canada.

“It’s the way the world is right now,” Oilers bench boss Dave Tippett said. “A lot of parts of the U.S. are wide open, and Canada is still closed down. You just have to deal with where you’re at.

“Hopefully as the (age) regulations of who gets vaccinated in Canada continues to go down … teams can catch up on that, but time will tell.”

The NHL was the last of the major four North American pro sports leagues to announce relaxed virus protocols for teams based on individual vaccination levels.

“I’m happy for the teams down south,” Copp said. “It’s been tough.”

Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

CoronavirusNHL

Just Posted

Scooters lined up for an educational event in Stuart Park on Wednesday, June 16. (Amandalina Letterio/Capital News)
Free e-scooter safety training in Kelowna

Shared e-scooter operators collaborate to educate riders

The suspect reportedly assaulted a security guard and robbed him. The incident happened at a Kelowna hotel. (Contributed)
Okanagan Lake (File photo)
Thompson-Okanagan ready to welcome back tourists

The Thompson-Okanagan Tourism Association expects this summer to be a busy one

Employees at Playtime Casino wait outside while firefighters inspect the building after a small storage room fire on Wednesday, June 16, 2021 (Amandalina Letterio/Capital News).
Small fire at Kelowna’s Playtime Casino as staff preps to re-open

Fire ignited in the storage room, but the staff were able to put it out

Maxwell Johnson is seen in Bella Bella, B.C., in an undated photo. The Indigenous man from British Columbia has filed complaints with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal and the Canadian Human Rights Commission after he and his granddaughter were handcuffed when they tried to open a bank account. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Heiltsuk Nation, Damien Gillis, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
VIDEO: Chiefs join human rights case of Indigenous man handcuffed by police in B.C. bank

Maxwell Johnson said he wants change, not just words, from Vancouver police

A mother stands with her daughter, visiting senior parents but observing social distancing with a glass door between them.  The granddaughter puts her hand up to the glass, the grandfather and grandmother doing the same.  A small connection in a time of separation during the Covid-19 pandemic (Valley First/Contributed).
Have your say on which Okanagan, Thompson, Similkameen charities get donation

Valley First seeks public help to distribute $250,000 to local charities via social media campaign

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Chief Rosanne Casimir stands outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School after speaking to reporters, in Kamloops, B.C., on Friday, June 4, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Kamloops chief says more unmarked graves will be found across Canada

Chief Rosanne Casimir told a virtual news conference the nation expects to release a report at the end of June

Vernon Courthouse. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Sentencing delayed in North Okanagan child pornography case

Man who pleaded guilty to possessing child pornography will have new sentence date fixed next week

A woman wears a vaccinated sticker after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. ranks among highest in world in COVID-19 first-dose shots: health officials

More than 76% of eligible people have received their 1st shot

People decided to tag Skaha Bluffs rocks which the Ministry has to go in and now clean up. (Facebook)
Bluffs at popular Penticton rock climbing park defaced

Ministry of Environment is going to clean it up

A screenshot of the First Peoples Cultural Councils First Peoples’ Map. (First Peoples Cultural Council)
Online resource blends B.C.-Alberta’s Indigenous languages, art and culture

Advisor says initiative supports the urgent need to preserve Indigenous languages

Most Read