Halifax Mooseheads, Cape Breton Eagles skating without their import stars
QMJHL teams will be without their players from outside Canada until travel rules change
The Halifax Mooseheads and Cape Breton Eagles have begun to trim their rosters but there are still some big questions on what their final lineups will look like when the regular season begins.
Due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, import players are not able to travel from outside of Canada. That means all European, Russian and American players must sit and wait to get the green light.
"We've had a lot of discussions with [Global Affairs Canada] to try and get a solution to allow players to come to Canada," said Martin Lavallee, assistant to QMJHL commissioner Gilles Courteau. "The first step was to send a letter from each public health agency in all four provinces of our league to the Canadian government to prove our return-to-play protocol is OK."
In total, there are three Halifax and two Cape Breton players unable to join their teams.
The Mooseheads are without Senna Peeters, an 18-year-old Austrian who scored 23 goals for Halifax last year; Attilio Biasca, a 17-year-old from Switzerland who Halifax selected fifth overall in the 2020 CHL import draft; and Zack Jones, a 19-year-old from Bridgewater, Mass., who played last season for the Mooseheads.
"Obviously we'd love to have those three guys here. They're three of our best players but every team is in the same boat," said Mooseheads general manager Cam Russell. "We understand there is a pandemic here and the government has to be very careful so we just move on and worry about the things we can control."
Cape Breton is without Ivan Ivan, an 18-year-old from the Czech Republic. Mikhail Nizovkin, a 17-year-old Russian who was the 44th player selected in this year's import draft, is also not at camp.
It's a stark contrast in soccer's Canadian Premier League when it comes to international players suiting up. After delaying the start of its season because of COVID-19, the league kicked off its 2020 campaign Aug. 13 in a Charlottetown bubble.
All players from the eight teams, along with officials, went through a two-week quarantine and have been regularly tested for COVID-19. They are staying at the same hotel, with small crowds fewer than 50 now permitted to watch games.
The Halifax Wanderers, who have advanced to the second stage of play, have six import players from five different countries.
"All our international players were either in the country already or had approved visas at the time border closures were implemented," a team statement said. "Canada allowed temporary foreign workers with approved visas prior to lockdown to travel into the country."
Officials with the QMJHL remain hopeful the Canadian government will soon be allowing its import players to enter Canada and then quarantine for two weeks. Lavallee said they hope to have everything worked out in time for opening night.
"That's what we've been telling our teams, that we are still confident that by next week they will be able to bring their players to Canada," he said. "We still have our fingers crossed but we are really positive about the good discussions we've had with the government."
The Eagles and Mooseheads play each other to open the regular season, starting Oct. 2 at Centre 200 in Sydney and then Oct. 3 at Scotiabank Centre in Halifax.