Sports Returning to Toronto

One of the signs that lives are slowly moving back to normal is the return of professional sports, at least to our TV screens.  For many fans, the entertainment and social activity that comes with watching a game has been a big gap, as it has been for many restaurant and bar owners that rely on game night business as a key source of income.

With professional athletes flocking to Toronto for Major League Baseball and the NHL’s playoff “hub” site hosting 12 teams, there are concerns about the chance of moving backwards on our pandemic recovery.  But public health experts that have extensively studied the league proposals have been satisfied that strong precautions are being taken to protect the public from risk.

The Government of Canada has allowed an exception to the normal 14 day quarantine rules to allow the NHL “hub” cities to operate.  Under the terms of the extensive plan and safety protocols, players, team staff and even hotel workers will be completely segregated from the general public throughout their stay under what’s being called a “cohort quarantine.” 3 negative tests are required of a player before they can enter a hub city. If caught outside the quarantine zone, players would face up to a $750,000 fine.  These protocols have been endorsed by Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, and Mayor John Tory.

The Blue Jays have a more complicated situation, as their schedule would involve travel across the border, even if both home and visiting players are completely isolated while in Toronto.  The City and Province of Ontario have publicly stated support for a proposed isolation plan, but as of this writing, the Government of Canada continues to review the situation.

The Blue Jays are currently holding training camp in Toronto and launch their season on July 24. NHL players are scheduled to arrive July 26 for a tournament beginning August 1.  The Raptors also return to action on July 30, but inside the NBA “bubble” in Orlando, Florida.

At several times in our history, professional sport has served as a boost to both economy and morale in times of crisis.  For that reason, hockey and baseball both carried on during the Great Depression and World War 2.  There was controversy, but also a surge in popularity.  If we can get life looking a little more normal and give a boost to our struggling hotel and restaurant sector in the process, all while keeping the risk minimal, it certainly seems a worthy attempt.