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

Construction has begun on the new Eagle Mountain elementary school in Abbotsford. (Screengrab from video by CHP Architects)
Construction begins on new Eagle Mountain elementary school in Abbotsford

School, including childcare spaces, is set to open in September 2022

Bill Hireen joined Remembrance Day celebrations in Abbotsford in 2019. The veteran and long-time civic supporter passed away on Dec. 31, 2020. (Abbotsford News file photo)
Long-time Abbotsford city council supporter dies of COVID-19

Bill Hireen was a frequent visitor to council and police board meetings

Uber Eats has announced that it is now delivering food orders in Abbotsford and Chilliwack. (Submitted photo by Justin Walker)
Uber Eats announces expansion into Abbotsford

Food-delivery company is staring with 60 local restaurants

Nakota Hinksman had been reported missing in Abbotsford, but has since been located.
UPDATE: Missing teen with autism has been located in Abbotsford

Nakota Hinksman, 18, had been missing since 3:20 a.m. on Tuesday

NHL Central Scouting has ranked three Abbotsford hockey talents as likely to be drafted in 2021. (Twitter photo)
Trio of Abbotsford hockey talents placed on NHL watch list

Abbotsford’s Chiasson, Milne and Sward all ranked as C grade prospects for 2021 NHL draft

Dr. Penny Ballem, a former deputy health minister, discusses her role in leading B.C.’s COVID-19 vaccination program, at the B.C. legislature, Jan. 22, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. holds steady with 407 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday

14 deaths, no new outbreaks in the health care system

This 2020 electron microscope image provided by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - Rocky Mountain Laboratories shows SARS-CoV-2 virus particles which cause COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells cultured in a lab. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, NIAID-RML
B.C. ramping up screening for faster-spreading COVID-19 ‘variants of concern’

B.C. has sequenced about 11,000 COVID-positive samples since last February

A Cessna 170 airplane similar to the one pictured above is reported to be missing off the waters between Victoria and Washington State. Twitter photo/USCG
Canadian, American rescue crews searching for missing aircraft in waters near Victoria

The search is centered around the waters northeast of Port Angeles

Keygan Power with brother Quintin and mom Allison while camping the weekend before Keygan’s brain hemorrhage on Aug. 2, 2020. (Photo Allison Power)
B.C. teen ‘locked inside,’ battling to regain speech after severe brain bleed

16-year-old suffers traumatic loss of function, still plays a mean game of chess

Jonathon Muzychka and Dean Reber are wanted on Canada-wide warrants. (Courtesy of Victoria Police Department)
Convicted killer, robber at large after failing to return to facility: Victoria police

Dean Reber, 60, and Jonathon Muzychka, 43, may be together

B.C. Premier John Horgan listens during a postelection news conference in Vancouver on Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
30% of B.C. recovery benefit applications held up in manual review

The province says 150 staff have been reassigned to help with manually reviewing 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

Adam Dergazarian, bottom center, pays his respect for Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, in front of a mural painted by artist Louie Sloe Palsino, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Kobe Bryant’s presence remains strong a year after his death

Tuesday marks the grim anniversary of the crash that took their lives

Most Read