U.S. Government bans Canadian NHL charter flights.

NHL_logoThings got interesting today in the courtroom as Judge Baum said he might reject both the bid from the NHL and Jim Balsillie for the Phoenix Coyotes.  Read here for more.

In an unrelated, but just as interesting move, the U.S. Government removed the exemption which had been included for Canadian sport teams and musicians traveling within the U.S.  Previously, NHL and other sport franchise from Canada were able to charter flights and go from one location to another within the United States, allowing them the ability to move about with ease during road trips.  However the new ruling has removed this exemption, meaning that all charter flights from Canada headed into the U.S. will only be allowed to stop at a single U.S. destination before having to head back to Canada.  NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly notes that such a move will “wreck havoc” with the business operations of the Canadian NHL clubs traveling in the U.S.

Consider the schedule for the Edmonton Oilers, who have an interesting road trip in February.  They have a stretch of away games that would take them to: Minnesota, Colorado, Arizona, and California in that order.  Rather than moving from one destination to another, as would be allowed under the old rules, the new regulations would require the team to fly back to Canada between each stop, or to use a U.S. charter.  The problem with this, however, is that NHL teams often charter with a single company through out a season by way of an agreement, so Canadian teams who chartered with a U.S. airlines, would have no way of moving around within Canada other than using public airlines.  In either case, the Oilers (and other Canadian franchises) would be forced to take alternatives which be more costly or time consuming (or possibly both).

The cause?  It seems some Pilots from the U.S. Air Line Pilots Association had complained about the passenger lists and stops they were forced to make.  It turns out many injured players, trainers, and other individuals were using these charter flights to go to cities around the U.S. which were not part of their NHL franchises official schedule.

Things are already getting messy.  There are threats of investigations and possibly even banning U.S. charters in Canada from going to more than one destination.  Already, several NHL teams have withdrawn from working with Air Canada, including the Boston Bruins and the Anaheim Mighty Ducks.  My big question, is if things are stuck in their current state, what would be the costs of transportation for these teams?  Will the NHL schedule even be able to be worked out logistically?  Financially, this will have to hurt for every team which travels back and forth from the U.S. to Canada, and will probably hurt Canadian teams more (though the Bruins and Sabers could have trouble with three Canadian franchises in their division).  In a time where financial stability of sport franchises is in the limelight, it seems the U.S. government is creating a potentially disastrous situation for the NHL and NBA who have already been hard hit by the recession.

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