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Will hockey's Stanley Cup open the U.S.-Canada border for everyone?

Montreal Canadiens
The Montreal Canadiens beat the Tampa Bay Lightning Tuesday evening to move on to Round 2 of the Standley Cup finals.

When the Montreal Canadiens and the Winnipeg Jets face off Wednesday evening in Manitoba, there will be fans in the stands, even in a Canadian province with terrible COVID problems. What's going on behind the scenes is the question of whether the winner of that series will be able to cross the border to face off with the winner of this year's American wing of the NHL for the Stanley Cup.

You have to go back to 1919 when the hockey finals were canceled because of a lethal flu epidemic to remember a year when there was no winner. Now, the hockey powers-that-be want to persuade some U.S. states and Canadian provinces to allow teams playing in the finals to travel back and forth across a closed border.

Rep. Brian Higgins said if hockey teams can cross the border, everyone should be able to.

"I've played hockey. I'm a fan of the National Hockey League. But fairness is fairness. If hockey players can cross the border, demonstrating that they are vaccinated, so should people who own property. So should people who want to be reunited with loved ones. So should people who want to transact business," Higgins said.

The South Buffalo Democrat said vaccination levels are reaching the point on both sides of the border where people who have had their shots should be able to cross.

"We've been told for 15 months that the inflection point, that the game-changing momemt, was when everybody was vaccinated, Well, allow those people who have been vaccinated to cross the border," he said. "Over a million people have been crossing the border for 15 months who are essential travelers. We're just trying to expand that category toward the goal of a wider opening on July 4."

After falling way behind the U.S., Canada has found lots of COVID vaccine from wherever it can and the percentage of the population vaccinated has steadily risen, even as the number of virus cases continues to climb and people continue to die. Parts of Canada have opened up and Ontario is debating whether to bring back all the kids for the last few weeks of school.

"The fact of the matter is COVID has been with us for 20 years," Higgins said. "It will be with us the rest of our lives. We have to manage the public health crisis wherever it occurs."

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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