Raptors, Maple Leafs, Senators to Limit Crowd Capacity at Home Games Due to COVID-19

Paul KasabianFeatured Columnist IIDecember 15, 2021

TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 20: Toronto Maple Leafs fans light up rink with their cellphones at an NHL game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Toronto Maple Leafs  at the Scotiabank Arena on November 20, 2021 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Kevin Sousa/NHLI via Getty Images)
Kevin Sousa/NHLI via Getty Images

The Toronto Raptors, Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators will limit home games to a 50 percent crowd capacity amid Ontario's new rules to combat the COVID-19 surge, per Sportsnet.

"This measure is being taken to reduce opportunities for close contact in high-risk indoor settings with large crowds and when masks are not always worn," the province wrote in a press release.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford offered more explanation for the decision in a press conference.

"Let's be very clear, you've got to target the largest venues," Ford said.

He also added: "Sports games, large concerts—people aren't masking as much as (organizers) implore them to mask. They all aren't masking. You're sitting side by side for hours. Compared to a restaurant, that's comparing apples and bananas as far as I'm concerned, not even apples and oranges."

The province unveiled the new rules Wednesday, and they will go into effect Saturday. They are in effect for all indoor venues that can hold 1,000 or more people.

COVID-19 cases have steadily been on the rise since Oct. 11, per the World Health Organization Coronavirus Dashboard. The week of Oct. 11 saw 2,822,302 confirmed cases worldwide, while the week of Dec. 6 had 4,253,897 confirmed cases.

The situation in Ontario mirrors the COVID-19 picture worldwide. Per the province's official website, there were 269 new cases on Oct. 26. That number has since jumped to 1,808 reported new cases on Dec. 15.

The Raptors were scheduled to host the Chicago Bulls on Thursday, but that game has been postponed because of a COVID-19 outbreak within the Bulls roster. Therefore, the limited capacity mandate will begin to take effect on Saturday when the Golden State Warriors visit Scotiabank Arena.

Ottawa is out of town until Sunday, when the Sens host the Boston Bruins. The Maple Leafs' next home game is Dec. 23 against the St. Louis Blues.