By Scott Nason “The Game” ESPN 1400
The Biden Administration announced Wednesday morning that it will reopen its land borders to nonessential travel next month, ending a 19-month freeze due to the COVID-19 pandemic as the country moves to require all international visitors to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.
The new rules, to be announced Wednesday, will allow fully vaccinated foreign nationals to enter the U.S. regardless of the reason for travel starting in early November, when a similar easing of restrictions is set to kick in for air travel into the country.
This hands a bit of a lifeline to the Soo Eagles of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League, who did not participate in the 2020-21 season because of the pandemic, and have had to play all their games on the road to start this season.
The Eagles are off to a 4-2-1 start to their NOJHL campaign, and are scheduled to play three games on the road this weekend. Because of league health and safety protocols, Eagles players and staff are tested for COVID-19 before they cross the border, and have all players and coaching staff fully vaccinated, in order to participate in league play, and abide by local protocols.
The NOJHL states that all players, coaches and staff on the 12 teams that participate in the league are also fully vaccinated. Fans attending league games in Northern Ontario are required to provide vaccination proof for fans 12 and older.
The Eagles will be at home next week, as they have a pair of exhibition games lined up against the U.S National Under-17 team, on October 20-21 at Pullar Stadium, starting at 7:00 p.m.
With news today of the U.S. border reopening to Canadians next month, it poses the question, what the league will do, in order for the Eagles to host league games at Pullar Stadium. As of the time of this writing, there has been no official word from the NOJHL as far as potential plans.
Currently, fans in the Eastern Upper Peninsula and across the state attending local high school sporting events, indoors and out, as well as Lake Superior State University athletics, do not have to wear masks, show COVID-19 vaccination proof, or have any capacity limits, as local health and safety mandates are not in place.
This is a stark contrast to how health officials in Northern Ontario, and across the province are handling the pandemic as far as health and safety measures and mandates, for fan attending sporting events.
Will Canadian teams be willing to travel across the border, get tested, and play?
Will the health and safety protocols in Northern Ontario, and with the NOJHL, have to be in place with the fans at Pullar Stadium?
There are more questions than answers at this time, and there should be some clarification over the upcoming days and weeks and once we receive them, we will pass them along.
For now, there is a lot more hope than yesterday, that NOJHL hockey could be played at Pullar Stadium this season.
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