Quebec premier says coronavirus health measures shouldn’t impact Canadiens if NHL resumes

Ottawa Senators centre Josh Norris (37) and Montreal Canadiens left wing Jonathan Drouin (92) battle for the puck during first period NHL action in Ottawa on February 22, 2020. Fred Chartrand/The Canadian Press

Quebec Premier François Legault says the province’s public health measures shouldn’t impact a resumption of activities for the NHL’s Montreal Canadiens.

Legault said Wednesday he’s had discussions with Canadiens owner Geoff Molson and the premier says he’s confident the NHL has the financial ability to put together measures that would protect teams as COVID-19 cases continue to rise.

“I think the stakes are more on the side of what concessions the players will make on their salaries,” Legault said. “As far as health standards are concerned, we managed to do it this summer (with all teams in secure zones in Edmonton and Toronto), so I think it will be possible to do it from mid-January.”

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The NHL and NHL Players’ Association are still in talks on what a return to play for a 2020-21 season would look like. The league is reportedly interested in a Jan. 13 start date.

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A major issue facing the NHL is travel across the border with the United States, which is currently closed to non-essential travel. Seven of the league’s 30 teams that would play in 2020-21 are based in Canada, with the rest in the U.S.

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Coronavirus: Quebec announces extension of holiday break, mandatory work from home – Dec 15, 2020

One solution the NHL is reportedly considering is an all-Canadian division. Legault said he’d look forward to seeing stars on other Canadian clubs, including Edmonton’s Connor McDavid and Toronto’s Auston Matthews, in Montreal more often.

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With an all-Canadian division and American teams not crossing the border, provincial and state rules would be the main concern for the NHL.

Read more: Pfizer Canada head says governments, not NHL, top priority for coronavirus vaccines

Legault also noted hotels aren’t occupied right now, meaning it should be easy to preserve team bubbles.

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Legault’s comments come as Quebec struggles to contain a second wave of COVID-19 infections. The province reported 1,897 new COVID-19 infections and 43 more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus on Wednesday.

Legault announced Tuesday that secondary schools will close for an additional week in January and non-essential retail stores will be forced to close from Dec. 25 until at least Jan. 10.

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