Canada urged to lift Covid-19 restrictions for NHL players

Canada's federal government has been urged to relax its coronavirus quarantine controls to boost Edmonton's chances of hosting part of the National Hockey League (NHL) playoffs.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney made the request in a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday as the NHL announced it is considering Edmonton as one of 10 possible hub cities to restart the season in.

"Such an exemption from the Canadian government would be necessary to enable the Oilers Entertainment Group bid to play host to the NHL playoffs," Kenney wrote.

"The Government of Alberta believes there are effective strategies in place to mitigate any risk."

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said Tuesday that the NHL will end its current hiatus with 24 teams resuming play in a playoff format in two hub cities as soon as late July.

Later in a video news conference with reporters, deputy commissioner Bill Daly said Canada's mandatory 14-day quarantine for anyone coming into the country eliminates Canada from the plan.

Major professional sports in Canada, including ice hockey, were shut down due to the Covid-19 pandemic in mid-March.

Two other Canadian cities Toronto and Vancouver are under consideration.

Kenney said the province could keep NHL players and staff safe, by creating a "quarantine zone" that would include hotels linked directly to the ice rink. He added the plan has the backing of public health officials.

"Alberta began its phased relaunch of our economy on 14 May, and there have been no measurable increases in the case numbers for coronavirus in the province.

"New Covid-19 cases in Edmonton are averaging one per day, with recovered cases far outweighing any new infections," he wrote.

In contrast, Los Angeles, which is also under consideration, has recorded over half the new cases in all of California in the last two weeks.

Under the NHL's restart plan, each hub city will have secure arenas, practice facilities and hotels. Teams will be limited to a staff of just 50 people in each of the two hub cities.

Last week the United States government exempted some foreign athletes from entry bans, saying "Americans need their sports".

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