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

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

Just Posted

This Dec. 2, 2020, file photo provided by Johnson & Johnson shows vials of the COVID-19 vaccine in the United States. (Johnson & Johnson via AP)
Interior Health notes 80 new COVID-19 cases over the weekend

108 people in the region have died from the virus

Forty-eight vaccination clinics will open across Interior Health beginning March 15. (Canadian Press)
48 COVID-19 vaccine clinics to open across Interior Health

Select groups can book appointments starting Monday

Seniors in the Interior Health region can book their COVID-19 vaccinations starting Monday, March 8, 2021 at 7 a.m. (File photo)
Seniors in Interior Heath region can book COVID-19 shots starting Monday

Starting March 8 the vaccination call centre will be open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily

Interior Health reported 33 new COVID-19 cases on March 5. (Black Press Files)
Interior Health reports 33 new COVID-19 cases on March 5

Over 300,000 vaccine doses have been administered provincewide.

A lawyer wears a face mask and gloves to curb the spread of COVID-19 while waiting to enter B.C. Supreme Court, in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, Aug. 28, 2020. British Columbia’s highest court has sided with the land owner in a dispute over public access to public land. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. high court finds in favour of large landowner in fight over access to Stoney and Minnie lakes

The Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club launched legal action after the cattle company blocked road and trail access

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

Montreal Canadiens right wing Paul Byron (41) fights for control of the puck with Vancouver Canucks defenceman Quinn Hughes (43) during first period NHL action in Vancouver, Monday, March 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Captain Clutch: Horvat nets shootout winner as Canucks edge Habs 2-1

Vancouver, Montreal tangle again on Wednesday

Cottonwoods Care Home in Kelowna. (Google Maps)
New COVID-19 outbreak at Kelowna care home includes fully vaccinated seniors: Henry

Two staff and 10 residents tested positive at Cottonwoods Care Centre

Excerpts from a conversation between Bria Fisher and the fake truLOCAL job. Fisher had signed a job agreement and was prepared to start work for what she thought was truLOCAL before she learned it was a scam. (Contributed)
B.C. woman warning others after losing $3,000 in job scam

Bria Fisher was hired by what she thought was a Canadian company, only to be out thousands

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix provide a regular update on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, March 2, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 cases: 545 Saturday, 532 Sunday, 385 Monday

Focus on Prince Rupert, Lower Mainland large workplaces

Rising accident rates and payout costs have contributed to billion-dollar deficits at ICBC. (Comox Valley Record)
B.C. appealing decision keeping ICBC injury cases in court

David Eby vows to ‘clip wings’ of personal injury lawyers

(Black Press Media files)
Hosts charged, attendees facing COVID fines after Vancouver police bust party at condo

Police had previously received 10 complaints about that condo

Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Ahmed Hussen takes part in an update on the COVID pandemic during a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. A joint federal and B.C. government housing program announced today aims to help people living in up to 25,000 vulnerable households pay their rent. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Federal, B.C. governments announce $517-million rent aid program to help vulnerable

Benefits for those not eligible for B.C.’s Rental Assistance Program or Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters

Most Read