Hockey is coming back to Toronto and Scotiabank Arena.
On Thursday, minister of heritage, sport, tourism, and culture industries Lisa MacLeod announced that the Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators will be able to play home games in their respective arenas.
“This approval was granted under close scrutiny of the rigorous health and safety protocols that will be adopted to keep players, staff, and our communities safe of COVID-19 while permitting Ontario’s NHL teams to play the game we all love to watch,” MacLeod said.
However, at around the same time her announcement was made public, Dr. David Williams – the province’s top doctor – seemed unaware of MacLeod’s statement.
“We are assessing that at this time, we have not made a final decision [but] it’s getting very close,” he said during his daily provincial update. “I haven’t signed off on it at this time.”
The league and its teams are getting set for a Jan. 13 start to an abbreviated, 56-game season, realigning to limit travel during the pandemic, especially as Canada closed its border.
This resulted in the NHL announcing an all-Canadian division that will see all seven teams face off against one another across the country.
“I look forward to continued work with both the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators on a public relations campaign to warn Ontarians against the spread of COVID-19 and to rebuild confidence in minor sports post-pandemic,” MacLeod added.
“In setting aside the Battle of Ontario for the good of the game, the Senators and Leafs demonstrated the ultimate teamwork. I wish them both success in the NHL’s North Division. Now, let’s bring Lord Stanley’s Cup home!”
The Toronto Raptors were previously not approved to play their home games in the City, since starting the NBA season in Tampa, Florida. It remains unclear if the Blue Jays, who played their 2020 home games in Buffalo, NY, will play at the Rogers Centre.
The Alberta government approved Edmonton and Calgary for competition on Dec. 25 following the review of protocols outlined in the league’s return-to-play plan, along with some additional enhancements.
The Maple Leafs will open their 2021 season on Jan. 13 in Toronto against the Montreal Canadiens.