If the Toronto Maple Leafs are to win the pivotal Game 7 in their opening round playoff series against the Montreal Canadiens, it will be done with some fans in the stands.
The Ontario government has announced 550 fully vaccinated health-care workers will be allowed to attend the game at Scotiabank Arena.
In a statement, Premier Doug Ford says the decision was made after discussions with the chief medical officer health, Toronto Public Health and hospital partners. Ford says the health-care workers invited will include hospital and long-term care staff.
“This is well below the arena’s capacity,” said Ford. “With these health-care workers having received both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine at least two weeks ago, and with precautionary measures in place like screening, masking, distancing, enhanced cleaning and crowd control, public health officials are confident we can put these special fans in the stands safely and with minimal risk.”
The province says that Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment (MLSE) will cover the costs for people to attend the game and will be providing jersey for them.
“Every single day our health-care workers put their lives on the line to help others,” reads Ford’s statement.
“This small token of appreciation doesn’t measure up to the sacrifices they’ve made during COVID-19, but it is an opportunity for us to recognize their heroic efforts to keep each and every one of us safe. It also shows that the more of us who get vaccinated, the faster we can return to doing the things we miss.”
Ontario officials initially said there would be no spectators in the stands Monday night.
There were 2,500 fans were in attendance Saturday night at the Bell Centre in Montreal and Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown had called on the government to allow a similar number of fully vaccinated frontline workers to attend the game in Toronto, even tweeting out a link to a petition hockey fans could sign.
“In hockey, fans in an arena are like having a 6th man on the ice,” he tweeted. “I can’t think of a more inspirational group of fans than essential workers & healthcare heroes who have been on the frontlines fighting COVID-19.”
It’s time we thank our healthcare heroes & essential workers.
I’m asking Ontario’s Medical Officer of Health to allow 2,500 fully vaccinated essential workers to attend game 7 of the Leafs v Habs series.#GoLeafsGo #Hockey4Heroes sign the petition at https://t.co/KiJf17ariB pic.twitter.com/UQuVw8hoTd
— Patrick Brown (@patrickbrownont) May 30, 2021
Under Ontario’s current Roadmap to Reopen, the reopening of indoor sports and/or recreational facilities would not be possible until 70 to 80 per cent of adults have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and 25 per cent have been fully vaccinated.
According to the latest vaccination figures, just over 53 per cent of Ontarians have received their first dose of the vaccine.
Brown says the government’s position to not allow any indoor events until mid-August is inconsistent with what is happening in other jurisdictions across the country and around the world.
“The medical advice is clear, that its safe for fully vaccinated individuals to be indoors together and if Ontario is going to put a three month wait on those events being able to happen again, it would be inconsistent with the science that is available,” Brown tells 680 NEWS.
Despite the initial provincial statement, Brown encouraged people to sign the petition noting that public pressure has already forced the Ford government to alter its stance when it comes to pandemic measures.
“If you look at this government… they had a position, there was no way they were going to open outdoor amenities like golf and tennis, but physicians spoke up, residents spoke up and now we have outdoor amenities open again,” explained Brown. “Because so many people spoke up, playgrounds were reopened after a day of playgrounds being closed.”