WARMINGTON: Leafs, Raptors fans wrestle with coronavirus cancelations


Just like that their trip of a lifetime to attend a Toronto Maple Leafs or Toronto Raptors game was over.

Thanks coronavirus. But better safe than sorry is the approach that is being taken.

“The health and safety of our fans, players, staff and media always remains at the forefront of our decision-making as a hockey club and League, and the Toronto Maple Leafs are in full support of the decision reached today by the NHL, its member clubs and players,” Toronto Maple Leafs President Brendan Shanahan said Friday.

A bottle of hand sanitizer is omnipresent near the Nashville Predators dressing room in Toronto on Thursday March 12, 2020. (Jack Boland/Toronto Sun/Postmedia Network)

Rhys Grabble and Emily Burrows, who came at this time of year to see the Leafs and Raptors all the way from Wales in the United Kingdom, understand the dilemma.

But it doesn’t change their disappointment.

“It is too bad,” said Grabble. “We hope the WWE wrestling isn’t cancelled too because we have tickets for that.”

When I mentioned trip of a lifetime at the top of this column, it’s certainly true for Mikael Pesonen, Mikko Haavisto and Jarno Tolonen who came from Finland to see the Leafs take on the Nashville Predators.

“We had planned this for years,” said Mikael. “But it’s the way things go.”

They don’t think it’s going to be rectified before their return flight Sunday, so they just may have to come back.

But it didn’t stop them from visiting the Real Sports Apparel store and loading up on souvenirs.

These three fans from Finland have seen games in Chicago and Detroit and were hoping to see the Maple Leafs. Mikael Pesonen (L), Mikko Haavisto, Jarno Tolonen checking out the jersey of fellow Finn Kasperi Kapenen in Toronto on Thursday, March 12, 2020. (Jack Boland/Toronto Sun/Postmedia Network)

Mikko bought an Auston Matthews sweater, Jarno was looking at a game-used Kasperi Kapanen stick and Mikael bought the most poignant piece of memorabilia available since they didn’t get to see their fellow Finlander play.

It was a puck emblazoned with a message that reads: “I went to the Maple Leaf game and all I got was this puck.”

Finnish fan Mikael Pesonen said the souvenir he picked up is kind of ironic as he and his friends were excited to end their two-week NHL trip in Toronto, after seeing games in Chicago and Detroit, on Thursday, March 12, 2020. (Jack Boland/Toronto Sun/Postmedia Network)

The hot dog vendor outside Scotiabank Arena at the corner of Bay and Front Sts. said he was shocked by the news but plans to keep on going.

“Yes, it’s going to have an affect my business but what can I do?” he said.

It’s just one of those things.

A desolate hot dog stand at the corner of Bay and Front Sts., near Scotiabank Arena, in Toronto after the NHL announced it was suspending operations because of the Covid-19 pandemic on Thursday March 12, 2020. (Jack Boland/Toronto Sun/Postmedia Network)

I was working this assignment with photographer Jack Boland who I worked with a few weeks back at Pearson International waiting for flights to come in from China, which at the time was experiencing the original cases of what later came to be called COVID-19.

On that day we both noted that with such lax screening, if somebody had the virus nobody would know or do anything to stop them from entering the country.

Plane load after plane load has come in from all over the world with virtually no scrutiny.

Now we have sports leagues and many other operations shutting down all together.

Where does this all go?

Well, at Scotiabank Arena, one reporter made an interesting point.

“I don’t think there is a guarantee we are going to be able to leave our house in the next two weeks. Any of us.”

When you see Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife Sophie and other leaders self-isolating at home, it’s not a stretch to wonder.

Jack ran into Shanahan in the hallway at The Vault and asked him where he thought this was all going.

“We just have to wait and figure this one out,” Shanahan told Jack.

That starts with shutting things down.

Everybody pretty well understands why they did.

But it has ruined some dream vacations for people who came a long way to experience things that were on their bucket lists.