In a depressing callback to early 2020, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Raptors will be playing before a practically empty house, the latest worrying move to curb the spread of the Omicron variant as case counts and positivity rates shoot through the ceiling.
Leafs and Raptors owner Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (MLSE) issued a statement Thursday afternoon that was somehow both shocking and entirely unsurprising, announcing that games will be going forward without any sold tickets for the next three weeks, effective New Year’s Eve.
“Following the province’s announcement today which further limits venue capacities, MLSE venues, including Scotiabank Arena for upcoming Toronto Maple Leaf and Raptors games and other events, will transition to operating without any sold tickets effective Friday, December 31 except for league and team requirements up to 1,000 per game as we continue to work together in the fight against COVID-19.”
“It is expected that these limits will be in place for the next three weeks at which time the province has indicated they will reassess restrictions. Maple Leafs and Raptors Season Seat Members will receive follow up information within the next 24 hours as ticketing details are finalized. We look forward to hosting fans again as soon as the province deems it safe to do so.”
three??? weeks?? pic.twitter.com/itw2Dqe7vI
— natalie ☃️ (@willymarner) December 31, 2021
Many of the comments are, as you’d expect, complaints from fans being deprived of entertainment, but also an unhealthy dose of people unhappy with yet another round of restrictions being imposed.
Crying about it will not make it go faster
— Hopeless Pedantic (@TheLawbster) December 30, 2021
Some found humorous ways to show their frustration, like this incredibly succinct quote from Leafs forward William Nylander.
— Lyle (@InsiderLyle) December 31, 2021
Since we’re already bringing back ticketless games, one commenter thinks the logical next step is to take another page out of the 2020 playbook and just ship the whole damn thing to Florida again.
Just play in Florida for those 3 weeks. Snowbirds will make the arena Scotiabank south and we don’t have to deal with this fanless crap
— Alex 🇨🇦 (@Alex_S____) December 30, 2021
The Vault won’t be completely empty, as MLSE’s statement clarifies that small crowds of up to 1,000 will be permitted, but the wording of the announcement left some confusion among fans.
Season ticket holders were left wondering if they would be included in the limited number of attendees, though this will be limited to staff and team families.
This is so weirdly worded. What does this mean for people who have tickets up games at the start of January? First 1000 to show up get in? No one gets in at all?
— PHΛЯΛӨH (@PH7RAOH) December 31, 2021
One fan is dying to know if superfan Nav Bhatia will be one of the few allowed to attend, his value to team morale making him as important as team members’ families.
Does he count as family? pic.twitter.com/VhIyw4JOsp
— Matt Brawley (@mbrawley1) December 31, 2021
Raptors fans are particularly concerned, as the three-week period where the Scotiabank Arena will remain mostly empty pushes uncomfortably close to the long-awaited Feb. 3 return of former Raptor great Kyle Lowry.
Ruined lowrys return
— 𝑯𝒂𝒓𝒓𝒊𝒔♡ (@RaptorsHarris) December 31, 2021
What is expected to be an emotional homecoming for arguably the greatest Raptor of all time is now threatened. Though the three-week window is set to end before Lowry’s Miami Heat roll into Toronto, we all know from 2020 that these measures are often extended.
Fans are understandably concerned and upset over the new restrictions, and it’s anyone’s guess what the situation will look like three weeks from now when crowds are tentatively set to return to their seats.