Canada’s two most populous provinces announced they were reducing capacity on indoor events to 50 percent beginning Saturday, December 18. Ontario officials announced the changes Wednesday and Quebec Thursday, which impact all venues with a capacity for more than 1,000.
The decision, taken as COVID concerns rise amid a surge in cases and fears of an even stronger surge as the new “Omicron” variant spreads, is forcing venues and organizations to scramble to react.
Sports franchises impacted include the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators, the NBA’s Toronto Raptors, NLL’s Toronto Rock, and potentially the MLB’s Toronto Blue Jays if the restrictions are in place into spring.
“Our ticketing team is currently working through the logistics of implementing this change and will provide follow up details to all ticket holders within 24 hours,” Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment said in a statement Wednesday, indicating that it will “work to prioritize public health.”
MLSE operates the Maple Leafs and Raptors, which will now have capacity limits of 9,400 and 9,900 at home games, respectively. The Ottawa Senators say that season seat members will not be affected by the capacity reduction, and that anybody with tickets who may be impacted by the capacity reduction will be contacted by the team. “While ticket validity is subject to change, the organization will effort to accommodate as many of its existing ticket holders as possible.”
Canada and its provinces have been consistently conservative in their capacity restrictions due to COVID, holding off on reopening to full capacity until just November 15 – meaning that Ontario will have been at full capacity for just over a month when it cuts that number in half once again over the weekend. The Raptors played all of their home games at Amalie Arena in Tampa Florida for the 2020-21 season, due to concerns over being able to host games due to restrictions on travel across the U.S.-Canada border.
COVID-19 cases in Ontario have jumped from a 7-day average of 851 on December 1 to 1,514 as of Tuesday. It reported more than 2,400 new cases Thursday, the province’s highest total in seven months.