A major road block may have just surfaced for the Blackhawks and other NHL teams looking to restart the season after there was hope play would resume.
The NHL has been paused since March 12 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The league was reportedly hoping to move into Phase 2 of its plan to return - which would be ending recommended self-quarantine for players, opening team facilities and working in small groups together - within the next couple of weeks.
On Tuesday, CTV News reported that Canada and the United States came to an agreement on keeping the border closed to all non-essential travel for another month.
The extension on the previous agreement upholds border restrictions until June 21.
The idea of a 24-team format, which would include the Blackhawks (12th in Western Conference at time of pause) to resume the season was beginning to pick up steam before the border agreement extension.
If the NHL and its players aren't able to declare themselves a "essential business", it's uncertain at this point how much time would be required to jump start the 24-team format or if it would still be in play if the season were to potentially resume in some capacity.
It was previously reported by Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic that the NHL was considering not beginning the 2020-21 season until December or January.
"NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly says he's hopeful today's Canada-U.S. border announcement 'will not materially affect the resumption of play timelines we are currently contemplating,'" Sportsnet's Chris Johnston reported.
Update: per The Globe and Mail, "The United States will exempt some foreign athletes who compete in professional sporting events in the United States from entry bans imposed because of the novel coronavirus epidemic, acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf said on Friday."
Additonally, a source trying to get back to the US from Canada called the US Customs and Border office and was told if they had a valid work visa and a letter from their employer stating their services were essential they could cross the border by land. The source believed the same would work for air.
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Blackhawks' playoff hopes on hold with US and Canada border agreement originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago