The St. Louis Blues thought they had plenty of time to get back to the city. That might not be quite as true as they hoped.
The St. Louis Blues were in no rush to make players return to the United States when Phase 2 of the reopening began. Phase 2 was the reopening of practice facilities for individual workouts or small, six-man maximum practices.
The Blues never fully stated whether Centene Center would open for individuals. However, Doug Armstrong said they had no plans to have organized practices just yet.
He said he would let the players dictate when that would happen. One of the reasons there was no rush was because between the league shutting down and the reopening of facilities, many of the players had left the area.
Armstrong mentioned that he planned to let Phase 2 go by similar to a regular NHL offseason. Players slowly trickle back into the area on their own prior to a traditional training camp, which will be similar to Phase 3.
However, the Blues might not have the luxury of waiting as long as they might have otherwise. While camps will open with a tentative date of July 10, players might be wise to return well in advance of that.
The reason is because the NHL and their teams are currently working to extend work visas. Those visas are set to expire on June 30.
The main reason the Blues would need to worry about this is because well over 90% of their current team is on a visa. The Blues only have three Americans on the team, Justin Faulk, Mackenzie MacEachern and Zach Sanford.
The visas always end on June 30 because July 1 is the start of free agency and the end of the normal league year. New visas are gained when the player joins a new team or rejoins his current team.
So, with the league year being extended, visas would need to be extended.
We have seen in the past that this can be fixed quickly or can cause problems. Each case seems to have its own life.
With that in mind, according to Elliotte Friedman, players are being encouraged to return to their club cities by June 21.
The reason is that gives them a good buffer. It is better to be in the country while your visa is being worked on rather than have it expire and try to return while it is being worked on.
Also factoring in is the pandemic. While governments are opening things back up, they very well might be backlogged with work on other visas.
Lastly, if the date of the 21st seems arbitrary, it isn’t quite. That date gives players 19 days before the start of camp.
That factors in Canada’s current 14-day self-quarantine, so players on Canadian teams would not miss the start of camp due to being in quarantine. Blues players don’t have to worry about that, but until or unless the Canadian government lessens their restrictions, players on Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton and Montreal could have a mess on their hands if they don’t return.
For the Blues, the only worry is getting them in. As mentioned, with the vast majority of your team on visas, its better if that all gets situated while they are in St. Louis as opposed to crossing their fingers while in Sweden, Russia or even Canada.
I understood Armstrong’s original point that there was no rush. Now, there is a little more pressure, so best to just get back to St. Louis.