FILE – Workers stand by after pausing arena assembly for the Maple Leafs NHL hockey game against the Nashville Predators at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto on Thursday March 12, 2020. Since early March, the novel coronavirus has affected almost every decision facing the NHL. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

FILE – Workers stand by after pausing arena assembly for the Maple Leafs NHL hockey game against the Nashville Predators at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto on Thursday March 12, 2020. Since early March, the novel coronavirus has affected almost every decision facing the NHL. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Ottawa Senators owner backtracks on plan for 6,000 fans to attend home games

Melnyk’s plan would have seen about one-third of the arena’s seats used.

Hours after revealing details of a plan to allow 6,000 fans to attend home games during the COVID-19 pandemic, the owner of the Ottawa Senators said now is not the time to invite people to watch games live.

Eugene Melnyk released a statement on Tuesday, saying the team is continuing to work on a plan to watch the Senators in person — “but only when the time is right.”

“That time is not now,” Melnyk wrote.

“Given the ongoing increase in daily COVID-19 cases and new measurements being introduced by the Government of Ontario to combat the spread of COVID-19, we understand as an organization that we must do our part to control this virus before we can entertain plans to bring fans back into our arena.”

“I appreciate Mr. Melnyk saying that,” Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said at a press conference Tuesday. “I think most people would agree cramming 6,000 people into one confined space is not a good idea at this time.”

Earlier, Melynk said that his “robust public safety plan” includes “health protocols ranging from proper physical distancing, rapid testing and mask-wearing at all times” inside the Canadian Tire Centre.

Melnyk’s plan would see about one-third of the arena’s seats used.

Melynk deleted the Twitter post hours later, though a reference to his plan, with a link to a recent newspaper article detailing the proposal, remained on his website.

The original tweet and subsequent statement came on the same day Ontario released a stay-at-home order, which takes effect Thursday.

The NHL season opens Wednesday night with all seven Canadian teams in one division and only playing each other, avoiding cross-border travel.

READ MORE: Vancouver Canucks get the green light to play NHL games in B.C.

None of the seven Canadian teams will have any fans inside arenas to start the season.

Ottawa’s home opener is Friday.

Asked about Melnyk’s proposal, Canada’s deputy public health officer Howard Njoo said it falls outside federal jurisdiction now that Canadian teams will not be crossing the border.

“I would certainly defer to local public health authorities,” he said.

Ottawa Public Health said in an email to The Canadian Press that the NHL return-to-play plan it reviewed did not include plans for fans to attend games at the Canadian Tire Centre.

Currently in Ontario, indoor organized public events and social gatherings are not allowed except with members of the same household.

The NHL expects three American teams — the Dallas Stars, Florida Panthers and Arizona Coyotes — to begin the season with a limited number of fans in their respective arenas.

The Columbus Blue Jackets and Pittsburgh Penguins are other potential candidates, while the Tampa Bay Lightning have the OK from local authorities, but announced over the weekend they’ll play in front of an empty building for the foreseeable future.

The league relies on fans attending games for roughly 50 per cent of its traditional revenue. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said Tuesday the league expects to suffer billion-dollar losses this year.

ALSO READ: NHL player with BC ties, Evander Kane, files for bankruptcy claiming $27M in debt

The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

CoronavirusNHL

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Chemainus Health Care Centre residents have been vaccinated. (Photo by Don Bodger)
First vaccinations done at Chemainus Health Care Centre, Steeples

Relief to have the vulnerable population protected against COVID-19

Dog owners, from left, Marlyn Briggs with Nayla, Marjory Sutherland with Effie and Mick, and Christina Godbolt with Conon walk their pets frequently at the Chemainus Ball Park but are growing increasingly concerned about drugs being found discarded in the area. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Puppy requires emergency treatment three times after ingesting drugs

Dog owners walking in Chemainus parks urged to take caution

Danielle Groenendijk and Bo were on the run and having fun during the last month. (Photo submitted)
Putting your time to good use

Groenendijk goes the extra kilometre to raise funds for Parkinson’s

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the legislature, Jan. 11, 2021. (B.C. government)
Vancouver Island smashes COVID-19 high: 47 new cases in a day

Blowing past previous records, Vancouver Island is not matching B.C.s downward trend

Cartoonist Rob Kernachan.
Kernachan’s cartoon flashback 2008

Carbon footprint reference still pertinent today

Toronto Public Health nurse Lalaine Agarin sets up for mass vaccination clinic in Toronto, Jan. 17, 2021. B.C. is set to to begin its large-scale immunization program for the general public starting in April. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
B.C.’s COVID-19 mass vaccinations expected to start in April

Clinics to immunize four million people by September

Terry Keogh, an RDN Transit driver, used his paramedic skills the morning of Jan. 22 after coming across an unconscious woman along his route in downtown Nanaimo. (RDN Transit photo)
Nanaimo transit driver stops his bus and helps get overdosing woman breathing again

Former EMT from Ireland performed CPR on a woman in downtown Nanaimo on Friday

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a daily briefing in Ottawa. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)
31 cases of COVID-19 variants detected in Canada: Health officials

Dr. Theresa Tam made announces 13 more variant COVID-19 cases in Canada

An Atlantic salmon is seen during a Department of Fisheries and Oceans fish health audit at the Okisollo fish farm near Campbell River, B.C. in 2018. The First Nations Leadership Council says an attempt by industry to overturn the phasing out of salmon farms in the Discovery Islands in contrary to their inherent Title and Rights. (THE CANADIAN PRESS /Jonathan Hayward photo)
First Nations Leadership Council denounces attempt to overturn salmon farm ban

B.C.’s producers filed for a judicial review of the Discovery Islands decision Jan. 18

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Daily COVID-19 cases reported to each B.C. health region, to Jan. 20, 2021. Island Health in blue, Northern Health green, Interior Health orange, Vancouver Coastal in red and Fraser Health in purple. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate stays stable with 508 cases Friday

Vaccine delivered to more than 110,000 high-risk people

More than 100 B.C. fishermen, fleet leaders, First Nations leaders and other salmon stakeholders are holding a virtual conference Jan. 21-22 to discuss a broad-range of issues threatening the commercial salmon fishery. (Black Press file photo)
B.C. commercial salmon fishermen discuss cures for an industry on the brink

Two-day virtual conference will produce key reccomendations for DFO

Black Press file photo
Investigation at remote burned-out Vancouver Island cabin reveals human remains

Identity of victim not released, believed to be the owner of an SUV vehicle found parked nearby

Angela Waldick is the new team photographer for the Nanaimo NightOwls. (Nanaimo NightOwls photo)
Half-blind photographer will help new Island baseball team look picture-perfect

Nanaimo NightOwls say legally blind team photographer is making history

Most Read