Proposed passport rule likely to affect sports teams

Let’s say it’s February, 2008. Little Johnny is the captain and top scorer for the local PeeWee ‘AA’ team and a trip to Minneapolis for the season’s biggest tournament is just two weeks away.
After a practice, the coach reminds the players to make sure they have proper documentation for when they cross the border.
“What do we need?” Johnny and other players ask the coach.
“Well, the most important thing to remember is to make sure you bring your passport,” replies the coach.
There’s a problem, though—Johnny doesn’t have a passport. And since it is now required in 2008 that anyone travelling to the U.S. have a passport, he will not be able to trip to Minneapolis.
The team will not have their leading scorer. The team will not have their captain.
This is a possible scenario many in Borderland could face when the “ball” drops in Times Square to ring in 2008.
In case you’ve had your head stuck in a gopher hole for the past couple of weeks, you wouldn’t know that all Canadian citizens will need a passport to enter the U.S. by air, sea, or land by Dec. 31, 2007.
“If we continue to travel to Winnipeg for soccer tournaments, we’re not going to be able to travel through the States anymore because I would suspect that a number of our players will not have passports,” said Caroline Spencer, head coach of the Muskie girls’ soccer team.
“It may make us decide not to go at all,” she added.
“This will make it harder for us to go to Winnipeg,” echoed Bob Miller, who has been the tournament director for the Fort Frances Minor Hockey Association for longer than he can remember.
“Most of the kids would get passports, but there will be some families that won’t,” he noted. “This will definitely affect us.”
It also will affect U.S. teams wanting to play in Fort Frances. By 2008, any American citizen who travels to Canada or Mexico will require a passport to get back into the States.
So what does that mean to Fort Frances and its sports scene? Well, because of these new policies, participation of U.S. teams in local tournaments could possibly—and most likely will—decrease.
“It will give them second thoughts,” said Spencer.
“I personally think it’s a bad thing because it’s going to hinder a lot of people and teams to come here and for us to go places,” agreed Miller.
It most definitely will affect the way Fort Frances teams travel if they are wanting to take the shortcut through the States to Winnipeg, or if they’re wanting to go to the States for a weekend tournament.
The Muskie boys’ hockey team usually plays eight-10 games against American squads over the course of a season. Head coach Shane Bliss believes if the changes are implemented, it would affect the program, though he’s not sure to what extent.
“We don’t want to give those games up because we feel it helps our program,” said Bliss, who, at a player’s information meeting a week ago, made sure to touch on the passport issue.
“I pretty much told them the sooner they get a passport, the better,” he remarked.
“We would have to take the long way [to Winnipeg] and that would increase expenses and increase travel time, and I think it would be a little more of a nuisance, but I don’t think it will be too big of a deal,” said Shane Beckett, head coach of the Muskie boys’ soccer team and an assistant coach for the Muskie football team, the latter of which plays in the Winnipeg High School Football League.
“We’ll probably just have to eliminate going through customs and go the Canadian route,” he added.