The Ontario government announced Monday that teams competing in the NHL’s all-Canadian North Division will be permitted to dine inside certain Ontario restaurants despite ongoing stay-at-home orders within the province.
When asked why it is considered safe for NHL personnel to dine indoors but not the public, Premier Doug Ford yielded to the province’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. David Williams, who pointed to the league’s strict COVID-19 testing policy.
“The rules of the NHL are very much strict with their protocols, with their frequent testing, their isolation of their players to the extent, and especially very tight transport within Canada,” Williams said. “They do not leave the country, so they’re staying in this country the whole time. There are some players, of course, this is not their home, and [they] require some place to have some eating and food facilities.
“The NHL has procured that in a tight level of restriction and control. So that’s all part of their bubble, if you may use that term, which they have strictly laid out in their protocol. And so far, as far as I’m concerned, they’ve been adhering to it.”
Canadian-based NHL players say they have had an easier time avoiding COVID-19 due to tighter rules and restrictions compared with those in the United States.
There are currently no Canadian-based players on the league’s protocol list, but that has largely been the result of limiting potential exposure and following strict routines.
Prior to the Ontario government’s decision, travelling players and coaches in Canada were only permitted at the hotel, arena or airport during the division-only season.
The league will submit a plan for approval to the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health that will specify a full list of Ontario businesses and places that will be used by the NHL.
Along with certain restaurants, the list will include selected bars and facilities for recreational fitness.
Every business or establishment listed in the NHL’s plan must comply with certain conditions, including not allowing spectators. Hotels must also ensure that their facilities are open only for the use of NHL personnel.
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