Home > The Scene

Canadian Olympic hopefuls protest NHL quarantine exemption

NHL players will be permitted to enter the country without quarantining, but that same freedom has not been given to Canada's Olympic hopefuls

Nate Brannen Photo by: Michael Doyle

The Canadian government announced on Sunday that NHL players will be given a travel exemption for the rest of the playoffs as the Montreal Canadiens play their upcoming third-round match-up against a team from the U.S. Everyone else coming into Canada has to quarantine for 14 days, including all other athletes. Even Olympic hopefuls returning home from international events or camps will be required to serve this quarantine, despite the fact that the Tokyo Games are just over a month away.

This NHL-focused travel exemption has understandably irked many Canadian athletes. For months now, Canadian runners have faced a dilemma: stay home and continue to train with no (or very few) racing opportunities, or travel to the U.S. and elsewhere to train and chase Olympic-qualifying results. There’s an added wrinkle for any athletes who chose the latter option, as COVID-19 restrictions meant they would have to quarantine (and therefore miss out on 14 days of training) if they decided to return home.

RELATED: Athletics Canada announces Olympic marathon teams

Losing two weeks of training is a big deal in general for these athletes, but those workouts and sessions are even more important now, with the Tokyo Games so close. That’s why it was somewhat of a slap in the face to these runners and other athletes when the federal government changed the rules for NHL players.

“Cool how our government is allowing athletes from other countries into Canada without quarantining to compete but not our own athletes whose qualification for the Olympics depends on it,” Canadian race walker Evan Dunfee tweeted. “I know that the COC are working on finding a solution, but it’s still infuriating!” 

A report from City News said the government is set to lift the quarantine for all fully-vaccinated Canadians returning home, but this won’t take effect until July, at which point the Olympic teams will have been selected and many athletes will already be in Japan.

Canadian marathon record holder Malindi Elmore, who was recently selected to Team Canada in the marathon, tweeted about this report, saying, “How about NOW for fully-vaccinated athletes returning from competing abroad so they can compete at national championships/Olympic trials later this month? (Kind [of] like other athletes like NHLers…). July is too late for these athletes.” 

RELATED: Athletics Canada updates Olympic qualifying process ahead of Tokyo Games

In track and field, the Olympic qualification window closes at the end of June, and one of the last events available to Canadian athletes in that period will come at the Olympic Trials in Montreal from June 25 to 27. As it stands now, anyone hoping to compete in Montreal who has been outside Canada will have to quarantine for the full 14 days, which very well could be the deciding factor when it comes to whether they qualify or miss out on the Games.