The Ontario government unveiled new COVID-19 restrictions on Wednesday that will impact crowd sizes at Toronto Raptors, Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators home games.
Scotiabank Arena, home of the Raptors and Maple Leafs, and the Canadian Tire Centre, home of the Senators, will be limited to 50 percent capacity beginning on Saturday after a limit was set on venues holding at least 1,000 people.
"This measure is being taken to reduce opportunities for close contact in high-risk indoor settings with large crowds and when masks are not always worn," the Ontario government said in a release (h/t TSN).
The first game to be affected by the restriction will be the Raptors' matchup with the Golden State Warriors on Saturday. The Senators' next home game is on Sunday, Dec. 19 against the Boston Bruins, while the Leafs return to Toronto on Thursday, Dec. 23 to face the St. Louis Blues.
Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, which owns the Maple Leafs and Raptors, also announced an enhanced mask protocol at Scotiabank Arena that will require "all attendees to strictly adhere to all mask-wearing protocols or risk ejection from the building." Fans ages 12 and up were already required to show proof of vaccination to gain entry into Scotiabank Arena and the Canadian Tire Centre.
The Raptors, Maple Leafs and Senators all began their respective 2021-22 regular seasons with full capacity crowds. But, amid a rise in COVID cases within the province, they will become the first NBA and NHL teams subjected to capacity limits in 2021-22.
"I know this will be tough, but it's an important step in ensuring we slow the spread of Omicron as we urgently accelerate boosters because, as I said earlier, it's all hands on deck," Ontario Premier Doug Ford said (h/t CP24). "This is a call to arms. And now more than ever, we need everyone to be doing their part."
The Raptors played all their 2020-21 home games at Amalie Arena in Tampa Bay due to Canadian travel restrictions. The Maple Leafs and Senators played an all-Canadian schedule last regular season in empty arenas.