According to Ontario premier Doug Ford, the parent company of the Toronto Maple Leafs has been in contact with the province about the possibility of Canada’s largest city serving as a “hockey pod” should the NHL resume its season in the coming weeks.
Ford said on Friday that Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment has reached out, but hasn’t provided specifics about a potential proposal.
“They’ve been in contact … they’re coming up with a game plan for the NHL as a whole. They haven’t really divulged anything else as of yet, but we have had a preliminary conversation,” said the premier.
The NHL, which paused its schedule on March 12 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, has been assessing plans to centralize groups of teams in low-risk cities in hopes of resuming the 2019-20 campaign this summer.
Fans wouldn’t be allowed into the arenas and teams would be sequestered in hotels.
There were 189 games left in the regular season when the NHL halted play.
Toronto mayor John Tory said he’s also been involved in discussions about the NHL using the city’s downtown Scotiabank Arena as one of its hubs.
“There have been some very preliminary, very high-level contacts with respect to the possibility of some games being played here,” he said. “But it’s something that hasn’t been finalized by the NHL.
“Certainly, Maple Leaf Sports is very mindful of the fact there would have to be substantial public health considerations taken into account as to the possibility of those games being played in Toronto.”
Last month NHL commissioner Gary Bettman contacted officials in Edmonton about potentially hosting games in the capital of the western province of Alberta.
“We’ve been looking at how you can have this type of sporting event safely around the world,” said an Alberta Health Services officer who requested anonymity.
“I absolutely think that these are the types of things that we need to think about. How we can do this safely during the summer? There’s ways that players can take precautions to make sure that there’s physical distancing.
“When we think of hockey, which I love, people are already wearing face masks.”
As of early April, more than a dozen NHLers had tested positive for COVID-19, including five members of the Ottawa Senators and three players for the Colorado Avalanche. All have since recovered.
The league and NHL Players’ Association have formed a joint committee to come up with a plan that could get games back on the ice sometime in July, with the Stanley Cup playoffs in September.
The committee issued a statement last week saying it “has not made any decisions or set a timeline for a possible return-to-play scenarios”, but remained hopeful that players could return to their teams for “small group activities” later this month.
Bettman recently noted that the government will ultimately make the call on when sports can return.
Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby has donated 100,000 meals to the Greater Pittsburgh community food bank.
Last week’s contribution from the 32-year-old Canadian superstar works out at 54 tons of food distributed across the organization’s service area, including a network of 365 pantries, drive-up distributions an home deliveries.
“I saw the people of Pittsburgh coming together to help one another and I wanted to be part of that,” Crosby, who had 47 points in 41 games before the season was paused on March 12, told NHL.com.
“Sidney is such an incredible person both on and off the ice,” said Lisa Scales, CEO of the food bank.