by PuckStopsHere on 09/11/09 at 12:41 PM ET
I have written in the past about travel problems for the western teams, but it looks like things will be even worse than usual for the Western Canadian teams this year (Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver). The US Government has banned Canadian charter flights from flying from point to point in the United States. This ruling is an attempt to protect American jobs. Typically, an NHL team has a contract with a particular airline (most likely Air Canada if it is a Canadian team) that they use for charter flights throughout the season. They are flown to all of their games and other events. Since teams often have extended road trips with multiple road games in the US, they often require flights between US cities. In the past an exemption to this law had existed for Canadian sports teams and entertainers traveling in the US.
This means that all Canadian charter flights must begin or end in Canadian cities. For example, if Vancouver has games in Minnesota and Colorado on back to back days, they must fly to a Canadian city in between the games or they must have a flight chartered with an American airline. This would require teams to drastically change their travel plans with only about a month notice before the season begins. Probably Canadian teams will need to deal with two different flight chartering companies. One when the flight goes to Canada and another for US flights. Any solution will be more costly and time consuming for these teams.
There had been complaints that teams would “abuse” the system with flights to cities that are not scheduled for games. For example, an injured player might be flown to a medical center or a scout might be flown to a game he will watch. That doesn`t seem like abuse in my opinion, but it appears some in the US Government disagree.
Some American trams including the Boston Bruins and Anaheim Ducks have withdrawn from agreements with Air Canada as a result of this. Though the logistics problems are more serious for Canadian teams, they affect American ones as well.
In response to this ruling, Air Canada is suing the US Government.
This is another problem that the NHL does not need dumped on its lap just before opening day.
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