Oilers fans pack the square during the Edmonton Oilers’ Orange Crush community rally in Sir Winston Churchill Square in Edmonton on Thursday, April 20, 2017. Hockey fans in Canadian cities with NHL teams have a reputation for expressing their exhuberance in the streets during the playoffs, and some admit the temptation to ignore physical-distancing guidlines may prove too great as the pandemic-postponed season resumes next month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Codie McLachlan

Oilers fans pack the square during the Edmonton Oilers’ Orange Crush community rally in Sir Winston Churchill Square in Edmonton on Thursday, April 20, 2017. Hockey fans in Canadian cities with NHL teams have a reputation for expressing their exhuberance in the streets during the playoffs, and some admit the temptation to ignore physical-distancing guidlines may prove too great as the pandemic-postponed season resumes next month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Codie McLachlan

As postponed NHL season resumes, some fans say the lure of parties will be strong

The players themselves aren’t to have any contact with the general public

As hockey fans gear up for a truncated season to begin next month, some in Canada’s two “hub cities” say the temptation to celebrate — and flout physical distancing guidelines — may prove too great.

“I can’t say no to a good time,” said Edmonton Oilers fan Jeet Jermana. “I’d be hard-pressed not to jump into a big party.”

On Friday, the NHL board of governors and NHL Players’ Association said they had ratified the return-to-play plan, paving the way for the league to resume its pandemic-hit season later this summer.

Toronto and Edmonton were also officially unveiled as hub cities where all games will be played, beginning Aug. 1. Training camps start Monday in the 24 cities with teams still in the running for the Stanley Cup, including six in Canada.

In 2017, when the Oilers nearly advanced to the Western Conference final, Jermana was among the thousands of fans who partied in Ford Hall at Rogers Place arena and in bars along the popular Whyte Avenue district.

But with COVID-19 this year, where teams will play in empty arenas, Jermana said he’ll likely watch more games at home, maybe with just a few friends.

That is, he said, until the Oilers advance and he and other fans won’t be able to resist going out.

“Once it becomes the ‘real playoffs’ I think more and more the momentum will grab,” he said.

Matt Black of Hotel X Toronto, located west of the city centre where multiple media outlets have reported that several teams will be based, said the prospect of any accommodation for celebratory fan gatherings, even outdoors, seems unlikely.

Nevertheless, Black said he expects citywide excitement will be palpable, even with empty arenas.

“You look back to those scenes of Jurassic Park and Maple Leaf Square and all of that … it would be great for people to be able to get together again but you just need to make sure that you’re doing it in a safe manner,” said Black.

The players themselves aren’t to have any contact with the general public.

READ MORE: NHL, players take collaborative approach in bid to resume

Dr. Vinita Dubey, Toronto’s associate medical health officer, said in an emailed statement that players and staff arriving from abroad will also have to serve a modified 14-day quarantine as well as undergo rigorous screening and daily testing protocols, wear masks in indoor settings, physically distance and wash hands often.

An Edmonton police spokesperson said the service wouldn’t be able to comment over the weekend on what sorts of preparations they might make for crowds when the season resumes.

Geoff Grimble with the City of Edmonton said the city’s civic events management team would likely discuss the issue during a scheduled meeting on Monday.

“The City of Edmonton’s first priority is public safety and we’ll continue to follow the advice and requirements of the Chief Medical Officer of Health to ensure fans, players, coaches and staff remain healthy,” Grimble said.

Oilers fan Brendan McLeod admitted he may be lured to a street celebration when — not if — his team advances, but said he still wants to maintain physical distancing.

“We have to get through this together or else it’s not going to change,” said McLeod.

But Shadi Merhej, who said he enjoys both hockey and the Oilers, noted the sport doesn’t have quite as strong attraction for him in the summer.

“It’s daylight ‘til 11 o’clock. You don’t want to spend half your day watching hockey,” Merhej explained.

“I’d rather go for a bike ride, or rollerblade or golf.”

—With files from Cassandra Szklarski in Toronto

Rob Drinkwater, 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

Just Posted

A report shows nine West Kootenay communities are have more low-income persons than the provincial average. File photo
Study casts new light on poverty in the West Kootenay

Nine communities in region have more low-income residents than provincial average

A volunteer delivers food to families as part of a West Kootenay EcoSociety program. Photo: Submitted
Farms to Friends delivers 2,500th bag of food to families in need

The program services communities in the Nelson, Trail and Castlegar areas

Selkirk College has begun its search in earnest for a leader to replace president Angus Graeme who is set to retire from his position in May 2022. Photo: Submitted
Selkirk College seeks community input for president search

Current president Angus Graeme retires next year

Waneta Manor is located on Laburnum Drive in Trail. Photo: Sheri Regnier
Senior dies as Trail tenants continue wait for broken elevator to be fixed

The elevator in Waneta Manor has been out of commission since February

Adrian Moyls is the Selkirk College Class of 2021 valedictorian and graduate of the School of Health and Human Services. Photo: Submitted
Selkirk College valedictorian proves mettle in accomplishment

Adrian Moyls is a graduate of the School of Health and Human Services

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

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

FILE – Most lanes remain closed at the Peace Arch border crossing into the U.S. from Canada, where the shared border has been closed for nonessential travel in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. The restrictions at the border took effect March 21, while allowing trade and other travel deemed essential to continue. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Feds to issue update on border measures for fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents

Border with U.S. to remain closed to most until at least July 21

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

Most Read