The Cape Breton Eagles will be without a pair of players when they take to the ice for their Quebec Major Junior Hockey League home opener on Friday.
European forwards Ivan Ivan and Mikhail Nizovkin are in their respective countries as border restrictions to Canada remain tight due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’re just waiting for the authorization to travel from the federal government,” said Eagles general manager Jacques Carrière. “If it was up to them, they would have been in Sydney over a month ago.”
International release for both Ivan and Nizovkin has been approved by the International Ice Hockey Federation, permitting the players to play in North America.
Carrière told the Cape Breton Post “some petitions” have been sent to the Canadian federal government regarding European players potentially getting special status to arrive in the country sooner rather than later.
“They would have to self-isolate and that stuff like any other traveller,” said Carrière, noting he speaks with both players at least once a week. “The status would be something similar to what the NHL received.
“I heard there were some discussions between the league and government this week, so hopefully they can find some sort of resolution by the end of this week.”
Although Ivan and Nizovkin didn’t take part in the team’s training camp both have been on the ice.
Ivan has been practising with HC Vitkovice in the Czech Republic, while Nizovkin has been skating with Vityaz Podolsk, the team he played with last season in Russia.
Ivan, a product of Ostrava, Czech Republic, was a first-round draft pick, No. 35 overall, by Cape Breton at the 2019 Canadian Hockey League Import Draft. The 18-year-old appeared in 62 games with the Eagles last season, recording 11 goals and 22 points along with a plus-10 rating and eight penalty minutes.
“We’re expecting big things from him,” said Carrière. “He worked hard this summer … he’s looking forward to coming back.”
Meanwhile, Nizovkin was taken in the first round, No. 44 overall, by the Eagles at the CHL Import Draft in June.
The 17-year-old split the 2019-20 campaign between Vityaz Podolsk’s under-17 and under-18 programs. In 25 games with the under-17s, he had 21 goals and 44 points and with the under-18s he potted 16 goals and 34 points in 12 games.
“He’s an offensive player, he’s an awesome playmaker and good passer,” said Carrière, noting he plays a style similar to former Eagle import Maxim Lazarev. “I think people are going to like him for his offensive skills.”
As of now, there is no official timeline as to when Ivan and Nizovkin will arrive in Cape Breton.
The Eagles will open the 2020-21 regular season on Friday when they host the Halifax Mooseheads at 7 p.m. at Centre 200 in Sydney.