After nearly twenty months of closures, the United States border will open today to vaccinated travelers today.
This move follows Canada opening their borders to vaccinated travelers from the United States in August, and recently opening their borders to vaccinated travelers from other countries.
While the move is great for tourism, and a welcome relief for cross border families and those with homes across the border, the impact we are going to watch closely is the one on junior hockey teams.
The border reopening likely saves the SIJHL’s two United States based franchises from going dark mid season. And it is certainly a welcome relief for the BCHL’s Wenatchee Wild, NOJHL’s Soo Eagles and the WSHL who is attempting to have their teams play cross border games for the first time outside of their annual showcase in Las Vegas.
Sometimes, timing is everything.
Scouting in Canada will likely see a small spike from NCAA programs over the coming months. I say a small spike, and not a big jump because NCAA scouting budgets have been slashed due to the pandemic and lost revenues.
Things, will now settle into a new normal of vaccination record checks and longer delays at land borders for crossing. A small price to pay for the ability to be able to return to doing things we have done in the past.
The new rules though will be a tough pill for some to swallow.
The anti vax crowd will continue to complain their rights are somehow being violated by not being able to cross the border. Never mind the fact that international travel is not a “right” protected by any law. It is a privilege afforded to those who follow the rules set out by each country.
Make no mistake, these rules will be enforced and taken seriously.
Recently a player I know personally was able to board an international flight with a letter from his family doctor saying he was exempt from having to get the vaccine. The letter was not accepted at the boarder patrol in Amsterdam and the player was returned to the United States on the next flight.
It is a new time we live in. Not even a “post pandemic” time because the pandemic is really far from over. But a time when Governments and citizens have finally had enough of restrictions and have found a place where they have a comfort level of acceptable risk.
For hockey, this could not have come at a more important time. Players around the world will now once again have freedom of choice in where they develop, and this is good for the game.
Happy travels everyone.
Joseph Kolodziej – Adviser