The Winnipeg Jets are asking permission to allow a limited number of fans to attend the playoffs at Bell MTS Place as of this week.
Sources tell the Free press two proposals are currently before the provincial government and health officials, with a decision expected in the coming days.
One of them is asking that fully vaccinated frontline workers and families of Jets players be given the green light. The other asks that only family members be admitted.
It is not known what the number of spectators would be in either scenario.
There is no suggestion yet to open the games to the general public.
The last time a crowd of any kind, besides team and league staff and media, attended an NHL game at the downtown Winnipeg ice rink, it was was March 9, 2020.
Depending on the outcome of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens game on Monday night, the Jets will either start the second round in Toronto on Wednesday night, coming home for Games 3 and 4 on Sunday and Monday.
Or they will open at home against Montreal on Wednesday, also playing on Friday, before heading to Quebec City for the games on Sunday and Monday.
The owner of the jets and arena True North Sports and Entertainment Ltd. made the request based on events at two other Canadian centers, which leaves Winnipeg as the only NHL market still playing hockey right now in an otherwise empty building.
Montreal welcomed 2,500 spectators to the Bell Center on Saturday for the sixth game of the first round series with Toronto, with no obligation to get vaccinated. The Habs became the first professional sports team in Canada to play in front of an audience since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Toronto quickly followed suit, welcoming 550 vaccinated frontline workers to the Scotiabank Arena for Game 7 on Monday, following an about-face earlier today by the Ontario government that initially hesitated at the idea.
“These health workers who received both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine at least two weeks ago and with precautionary measures in place … public health officials are confident we can place these special ventilators in the stands safely and with minimal risk, ”Ontario Premier Doug Ford said in a statement.
A senior Manitoba government source confirmed on Monday that True North’s proposals had been received and had been forwarded to public health officials for review. The source did not say when or if a fan readmission decision would be made.
Dr. Brent Roussin, chief provincial public health officer, was asked on Monday if Manitoba could follow the lead of Quebec and Ontario when it comes to the Jets.
“We don’t have anything certain at this stage. Our trajectory is certainly different at this stage from that on which these places are,” Roussin said. “We’re going to have to look at our local epidemiology and make a decision based on that.”
Without commenting specifically on the Jets’ situation, Roussin said the province is considering whether to change public health orders to recognize those who have been immunized.
“Our trajectory is certainly different at this stage from that on which these places are found.”
– Dr Brent Roussin
“It’s something that is definitely being considered,” Roussin said. “We want to find ways to show the immediate benefits of vaccination.
“We know these benefits protect us, protect those around us. But we also want to be able to further encourage vaccine uptake by showing some immediate benefits.”
An event like a professional hockey game, with controlled access and control, could provide the certainty that only those who qualified would participate. True North has had a detailed return-to-facility plan in place for months, waiting to know when it can be put into action.
“You know what? I would love the fans in every building. I think we’re close. We should have fans. It’s a different game with them there. It’s exciting. It helps to energize the momentum, “Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck said the following Monday. practice.
“We want to find ways to show the immediate benefits of vaccination.”
– Dr Brent Roussin
The Jets beat the Oilers in a memorable Game 3 on May 23, wiping out a 4-1 third-period deficit and winning 5-4 in overtime. They ended the series in an exciting way one night later, beating Edmonton 4-3 in triple overtime.
A few dozen fans staged a parade of vehicles around the downtown ice rink ahead of the two competitions, but that’s all that could be done, given current public health orders that restrict public gatherings of any kind. .
The current set of orders runs until June 12.
It’s a different story south of the border, where the six remaining playoff teams in Tampa Bay, Carolina, New York, Boston, Colorado and Las Vegas play in buildings at or near 100% of their time. capacity.
Roussin confirmed Monday that discussions are underway at the federal level regarding the possibility for the champion of the North division – Winnipeg, Toronto or Montreal – to play third round matches against an American opponent in his building.
Currently, cross-border travel is not permitted, which is why a 56-game schedule, reserved for divisions only, was used during the NHL regular season.
A decision on that front is expected in the coming days, with the third round of the playoffs set to begin in about two weeks.
“We have reviewed the plans to a high level,” Roussin said. “We have nothing specific to comment on at the moment.
“What we do know is that public safety is our first priority. We will ensure that any such travel is done in a very safe manner.”