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

A nurse performs a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Interior Health reports 16 new COVID-19 cases

423 cases remain active in the region

The City of Penticton is redirecting $150,000 for emergency repair work on Penticton Creek. (Western News File)
Grant delays force Penticton to redirect funds for emergency creek repairs

Council approved redirecting $150K to do repairs before the spring melt

Penticton City Hall. (File photo)
Penticton council ups construction costs

Council approved an interim increase of 25 per cent to all of the city’s development cost charges

A town was constructed on the side of a mountain top in Hedley to extract 7.1 tonnes of gold. (Mascotmine.com photo)
Hedley’s Mascot Mine gets $800,000 lift from COVID relief program

Grant will enable the historic mine to open again for tourists

Pathways Addictions Centre is in jeopardy of closing after Interior Health has pulled all its funding and will be taking over addiction services ‘in house’ as up May 31. (Facebook)
Future of Penticton addictions centre in jeopardy after Interior Health pulls funding

Pathways has been in Penticton for over 20 years and has 10 staff, serving around 1,000 people

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. has cleared the Lumby RCMP of any wrongdoing after a missing person was found deceased in December 2020. (IIO photo)
Police watchdog says North Okanagan RCMP played no role in missing person’s death

The body was found by a family member shortly after the RCMP suspended their search

The images are of Bald Eagles feeding.
Photos: Birds of prey

Princeton photographer captures compelling photos of a Bald Eagle breakfast

HOPE Okanagan’s Stay at Home Gala will raise funds to help serve Kelowna and Vernon’s vulnerable. (HOPE Okanagan)
Non-profit hosts virtual gala to support Okanagan’s vulnerable

HOPE Okanagan wants to raise awareness and support for those struggling in the streets

Older rental apartments are prime candidates for renovations, and could result in lost affordable housing stock. (Zoë Ducklow photo)
B.C.’s renoviction overhaul a good start, but won’t preserve affordable stock, lawyer says

And still no protection for people who can’t pay rent due to COVID-19

An off-duty Vernon Taxi driver got a 24-hour licence suspension, vehicle towed, after failing a standardized field sobriety test around 1:40 a.m. Tuesday, March 2, 2021. (John E Green - Facebook)
Vernon Taxi towed after driver suspected impaired

Off-duty cab towed from McDonald’s drive-thru early Tuesday morning

Kamloops This Week
Cause of Kamloops landfill fire may never be known

Fire investigators are dealing with too much destruction in too large an area

(Photo by Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze)
B.C. WHL teams to hit the ice with Kelowna, Kamloops hub cities

Kelowna, Kamloops centres chosen to host B.C. WHL teams for 24-game regular season

Most Read