While the NHL has the benefit of enough Canadian franchises to Frankenstein a Canada-exclusive division together during the COVID-19 pandemic, the NBA’s Toronto Raptors and MLB’s Toronto Blue Jays were forced to relocate to Florida in these tough circumstances.
The Raptors were sent to Tampa for their 2020-21 season, and it goes without saying that playing in that environment is not ideal for a club that is looking to contend. Toronto declined, and fans are pining for the Raptors to return to their old digs.
As the vaccination count keeps rising and both the USA and Canada work to combat the virus, a return to games in Canada with fans in the arenas is looking more likely. Considering what is happening in the NHL, Raptors fans should start to feel a touch more confident in their ability to play in their country next season.
The Canadian Press is reporting that the NHL is trying to work on a travel exemption that would allow teams from the Canadian division to cross the border during the final two rounds of the postseason. If this gets approved, the Raptors and Blue Jays should feel better about their chances of playing in Toronto as soon as possible.
The Toronto Raptors may finally return to Canada.
The Blue Jays said goodbye to their Floridian home at the Spring Training complex in Dunedin, as they will return to Buffalo’s Sahlen Field for the remainder of the season. While playing in Florida and New York is not ideal, at least there is some familiarity with those sites. The Raptors were hastily dumped into an alien environment, and the season suffered as a result.
The Raptors were 16-20 at “home” this season, losing more home games than they did in the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons combined.
Masai Ujiri and the rest of the Raptors organization have expressed their optimism for a season in Canada, and he is making a concerted effort to convince legislators to allow the Raptors to return to their country of origin.
With vaccinated healthcare workers being allowed into the building in Game 7 of the Leafs-Canadiens series, and with the vaccination rate continuing to grow across North America, the prospect of playing in Toronto is getting closer with every passing day.
The Raptors tried to give it their best shot in Tampa, and the local community embraced them as best they could, but this season was dead on arrival when they touched down in Florida. Scotiabank Arena is one of the best home-court advantages in the game, and it could have a transformative effect on Toronto’s win-loss totals.