Once again, as I have been saying since last September, the border with Canada and the United States is not only remaining closed, but tighter restrictions are being put in place.
While a loophole for Canadians to fly to the the United States has remained open, in November that will get a little more difficult. Starting in November all international travelers to the United States will have to show proof of vaccination.
For those of you who do not understand why the land border remains closed, it is largely a political issue. Canada and Mexico are both closed, and both will remain closed until both can open safely. Imagine the border crisis in Mexico if Canada was allowed access and Mexico was not.
Officials are now openly discussing borders staying closed until some time in 2022. A new vaccination verification program is being developed for the land borders and is not expected to be ready until next year.
Now, the WHL, OHL, NOJHL, BCHL and SIJHL must clearly activate some kind of alternative plans for their teams based in the United States. Canadian teams will not be coming to the United States to play unless it is by air, and that loophole closes for the unvaccinated in November.
There are rumors being floated that the Wenatchee Wild will be having teams fly in to play games. Having been to Wenatchee, flying in and then driving about three more hours from the airport is going to be an expensive proposition for teams and you can add probably half a million dollars to your budget on the low end. Good luck with that.
The Soo Eagles in the NOJHL will be playing in Sault Ontario until the border is fully open and this was confirmed by the NOJHL.
The OHL is in trouble unless a plan is devised for its American teams. The WHL can compete within its own two Pacific North West States until shut down orders are issued or additional restrictions are put in place. Oregon is already making it difficult for the Winterhawks, and Washington State is experiencing overflowing hospitals again.
The SIJHL’s two United States based teams are all but done. Beginning play last weekend, these two teams can not play all season against each other, and neither team has the budget to move to Canada or fly Canadian teams to the United States.
The SIJHL should have never let them begin a season as this was easily predictable and no indications have been given that the border will re-open. Playing all games on the road in Canada is an option for someone willing to drop another hundred thousand dollars on those expenses.
Six of eight games scheduled for Thief River Falls in October are against Canadian teams visiting the US based team, and those are not going to happen. While seven of nine games for Wisconsin will be on the road in Canada? And both of these teams do not have full rosters to begin with, so how do they expect to compete like this?
Now what? Is everyone going to continue to say “it will be ok”?
It has not been “ok” for a year and a half now. It is time for practical people to start making some hard, but practical decisions. It is time for teams and leagues to look to alternative joint working agreements or time for teams who are clearly in trouble to release players so they can find new places to play before seasons are once again lost.
I understand not wanting to give up, teams though are responsible for making sure players have a season. Playing against one or two other teams for months is not a season, its an exhibition schedule.
Joseph Kolodziej – Adviser