OTTAWA, ON – Hockey in Ontario cleared a major hurdle Thursday afternoon. In a Twitter statement Thursday afternoon, Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Lisa MacLeod announced that both the Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs would be allowed to host other cities for the 2021 NHL season.
The news comes as over 3,500 new COVID-19 infections were reported today in Ontario. A new record.
“I look forward to continued work with both the Toronto Maple Leafs and the 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,” said MacLeod. “This approval was granted after close scrutiny of the rigorous health and safety protocols that will be adopted to keep players, staff, and our communities safe from the spread of COVID-19 while permitting Ontario’s NHL teams to play the game we all love to watch,”
#Hockey news in Ontario 👇
— Lisa MacLeod (@MacLeodLisa) January 7, 2021
It’s expected that an announcement will come in the next few days on where exactly both teams will play – whether it is in their own arenas or at their parent club’s practice rink.
While the Marlies’ home, Coca-Cola Coliseum, is only a mere five-minute drive from the Maple Leafs Scotia Bank Center, the Belleville Senators are roughly 200 kilometers (125 miles) from their parent affiliate.
Both the Marlies and Senators are anticipated to join the AHL shortened 2021 season in early February, playing in an all-Canadian Division.
The news comes days after the AHL’s Laval Rocket was approved to play in the neighboring province of Quebec. Additionally, the team confirmed that it would be playing out of the Bell Centre of the 2020-21 AHL season.
“This necessary change was the logical decision to take because it allows and facilitates compliance with the sanitary measures required to ensure the health of all. For months, our teams have been working tirelessly to develop safety and risk management protocols that meet at all levels the standards dictated by the highest Public Health authorities and by the National Hockey League. We are confident that the Bell Centre will be ready to safely welcome our teams,” said France Margaret Bélanger, Executive Vice President, Chief Commercial Officer of Groupe CH.
Zack Power covers the Toronto Marlies for The Sin Bin. Follow and interact with him on Twitter @SinBinMarlies.