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

Andre Robert won $500,000 through a Lotto Extra ticket on Dec. 23, 2020. Photo: Jeanne d’Arc Allard
Creston resident wins $500k through Lotto ticket

“I was surprised. I wasn’t sure if it was true or not.”

Pioneer Arena is closing for the season. Photo: John Boivin
Castlegar’s Pioneer Arena and Nelson Civic Centre closing for season

RDCK is closing the ice at two of its arenas due to financial concerns related to COVID-19

A juvenile sturgeon in a B.C. rearing facility. The wild population in the Upper Columbia is estimated at 1,100 individuals, enhanced with roughly 5,500 hatchery fish. (file photo)
B.C.’s Upper Columbia sturgeon endure long battle with local extinction

Decades of monitoring and intervention is ongoing to save the prehistoric fish

Interior Health update. File photo.
86 new COVID-19 cases, two more deaths in Interior Health

The new deaths are from Heritage Square, a long-term care facility in Vernon

A Polyphemus cocoon. Photo: Ed McMackin
Out There: Wrapped Up for the Winter

“Probably, one of the most intricate works done for winter is completed by some species of moths that spend the winter in the pupa stage — the stage between larva and adult — enclosed in a protective covering.”

A scene from “Canada and the Gulf War: In their own words,” a video by The Memory Project, a program of Historica Canada, is shown in this undated illustration. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Historica Canada
New video marks Canada’s contributions to first Gulf War on 30th anniversary

Veterans Affairs Canada says around 4,500 Canadian military personnel served during the war

A 17-year-old snowmobiler used his backcountry survival sense in preparation to spend the night on the mountain near 100 Mile House Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021 after getting lost. (South Cariboo Search and Rescue Facebook photo)
Teen praised for backcountry survival skills after getting lost in B.C.’s Cariboo mountains

“This young man did everything right after things went wrong.”

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa on December 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
No place for ‘far right’ in Conservative Party, Erin O’Toole says

O’Toole condemned the Capitol attack as ‘horrifying’ and sought to distance himself and the Tories from Trumpism

A passer by walks in High Park, in Toronto, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. This workweek will kick off with what’s fabled to be the most depressing day of the year, during one of the darkest eras in recent history. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
‘Blue Monday’ getting you down? Exercise may be the cure, say experts

Many jurisdictions are tightening restrictions to curb soaring COVID-19 case counts

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

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID-19: Provinces work on revised plans as Pfizer-BioNTech shipments to slow down

Anita Anand said she understands and shares Canadians’ concerns about the drug company’s decision

Tourists take photographs outside the British Columbia Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday August 26, 2011. A coalition of British Columbia tourism industry groups is urging the provincial government to not pursue plans to ban domestic travel to fight the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. travel ban will harm struggling tourism sector, says industry coalition

B.C. government would have to show evidence a travel ban is necessary

(Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
‘Targeted’ shooting in Coquitlam leaves woman in hospital

The woman suffered non-life threatening injuries in what police believe to be a targeted shooting Saturday morning

JaHyung Lee, “Canada’s oldest senior” at 110 years old, received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. He lives at Amenida Seniors Community in Newton. (Submitted photo: Amenida Seniors Community)

Most Read