The Tampa Bay Lightning are one win away from sweeping the Stanley Cup Final against the Montreal Canadiens, but if they clinch the series in Game 4 on Monday, families of players and staff will not be on the ice to celebrate.
ESPN reports the Canadian government did not grant additional exemptions for family members to cross the border and skirt the federal 14-day quarantine, deputy commissioner Bill Daly confirmed to the outlet on Saturday.
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One Lightning player said in a text message to ESPN that he is annoyed, and said: “But at this point I’m not surprised.”
The NHL and NHLPA asked the government to allow for families to come as recently as this week, but ESPN reports the NHLPA warned players that it wasn’t likely the government would approve the request. As of Saturday, there was no resolution, meaning it wouldn’t be possible for families to come for Game 4.
There is a chance if the series is extended and the Lightning return to Montreal for Game 6, though the NHL and NHLPA are not optimistic to hear resolution by then either, sources told ESPN.
The league negotiated with the government and public health authorities last month to allow for NHL teams to cross the Canadian border for the final two playoff rounds without doing a full quarantine, as long as everyone agreed to a modified bubble.
Players and staffers are tested for COVID-19 daily, and no one is allowed to interact with the general public. Since arriving in Montreal, the Lightning have only been able to travel between their hotel and the arena, ESPN reports.
“Much like last year, we’re secluded, so we’re kept away from everybody,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said Saturday, after his team took a 3-0 series lead against the Canadiens, per ESPN. “Actually it’ll be similar to last year if we’re fortunate enough to win because of just the scenario that’s gone on, what’s been agreed to.”
The NHL was also able to arrange an additional charter for some rights-holders media and league officials to travel to Canada, all of which are living in the modified bubble requirements.
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ESPN reports that when the Lightning won the Stanley Cup in Edmonton in September, there were only a handful of family members on hand. The only people allowed to enter the bubble were Canadian family members living in Canada — which frustrated players, who felt the NHL and NHLPA moved the goalposts on them, the article states.
When the players agreed to return-to-play protocols in 2020, they were told “spouses, partners and children” would be able to join by the conference finals but the NHL never ended up getting that deal done with the Canadian government.