Senators, Leafs can play at home this season amid COVID-19 pandemic, province announces

The Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs will be able to play at home this season despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ontario government announced Thursday. 

In a statement, Lisa MacLeod, the minister of heritage, sport, tourism and culture, said the 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.”

MacLeod said the decision was made after meetings with Ontario’s chief medical officer of health along with top public health officials in Toronto and Ottawa.

She said she is looking forward to rebuilding confidence in minor sports after the pandemic.

In December, the National Hockey League said it believed it had an agreement with provincial governments on the conditions for its Canadian teams to play out the 2021 season from their home markets.

Toronto Maple Leafs forward Mitchell Marner celebrates a goal during a game against the Ottawa Senators in 2018. (Carlos Osorio/Getty Images)

The seven Canadian teams will be grouped in one division and only play each other for the duration of the 56-game schedule, which is slated to begin Jan. 13.

The Toronto Maple Leafs are scheduled to host the Montreal Canadiens, while the Edmonton Oilers are slated to face the visiting Vancouver Canucks as part of a five-game schedule on opening night.

Manitoba is now the lone province not to grant final approval.

However, acting deputy chief public health officer Dr. Jazz Atwal said Wednesday that Manitoba is “confident things will move ahead as planned” during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Quebec, B.C. and Alberta have already given their respective teams approval to play at home.

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