Just 2 hours before kickoff on Thursday, the last-place Montreal Canadiens announced that no one would be permitted in the Bell Centre for the game against the Philadelphia Flyers. This statement came in response to an urgent request by Quebec Public Health since COVID-19 cases had skyrocketed due to the rise of Omicron.
It was a dramatic contrast to the atmosphere in May, as Les Glorieux became the 1st NHL team in Canada to reopen the facility to spectators in 2021. The Quebec government approved the Habs hosting 2,500 spectators for Game 6 of their 1st-round playoff matchup with the Toronto Maple Leafs, as vaccines started rolling out.
Following the COVID breakout earlier on in the season, the Habs won Game 6 in OT, completed the great disappointment of its chief rival Maple Leafs on the road in Game 7, and afterward progressed to the Stanley Cup Final with Canada coming to life.
Only a few months later, the Habs fell from 1st to last in the East. Following a spate of NHL delays and cancellations, the arena went dark – 2 nights just after the zero-fan event.
Sports, in this case, mirrored Canada as a whole, with the hopes of restoration to better times dashed by hundreds of COVID infections and regional governments restoring limitations that most people thought were long gone.
Similarly, past prohibitions are being reinstated for sportsmen in some of the leagues and games.
Rather than concentrating on basketball, hockey or football, sports news has been dominated by athletes entering COVID protocol, choices as to whether to play or delay games, and proposals from some regions to restrict in-arena capacities. Many in Ontario have been wondering why, for instance, hundreds can attend a Raptors play, yet only ten may gather for Xmas dinner. Let’s not overlook the vexing Kyrie Irving scenario. The Brooklyn Nets appear to have done a U-turn by inviting Irving back as a component participant on Friday after declaring they would still not do this at the beginning of this season (he can’t participate in games due to NY laws for infected people). Irving underwent COVID-19 protocols on Saturday, delaying the Nets’ plans.
There just isn’t enough research to indicate if the Omicron variation is far less deadly than the Delta version, but the quick infectivity is still a big concern for Canada’s healthcare system. Although if you think it’s crazy whether any of the pro leagues are all still functioning, a few of the documents and reports in the sporting world give us reason to be optimistic.