The Toronto Raptors will start playing in Tampa, Fla. Next season after their request to play at home games in Toronto was denied by the federal government.
A federal source with direct knowledge confirmed to TBEN News’ David Cochrane that the Raptors could return to Toronto later in the season if pandemic conditions improve.
In a statement, team chairman Masai Ujiri thanked government officials for their efforts and said the team will start the 2020-2021 season using Tampa as a base. The season is scheduled to begin on December 22.
“The Raptors have worked diligently with public health officials at the local, provincial and federal levels to secure a plan that will allow us to play our 2020-21 season at home and on our field at Scotiabank Arena,” Ujiri said. in the press release. .
“These conversations have been productive and we have found strong support for the protocols we offer.
“Ultimately, the current public health situation facing Canadians, combined with the urgent need to determine where we will play, means we will begin our 2020-2021 season in Tampa, Florida. We would like to thank all levels of government and their public health officials. for their dedication to this process and for their concern for the health of Canadians. “
Ujiri asks fans to ‘cheer us on from afar’
In the statement, Ujiri said the Raptors organization will continue to plan for a safe return to play in Toronto and remain committed to promoting and demonstrating public health measures to help combat the spread of COVID-19 in Canada.
“They say that absence makes the heart more loving,” Ujiri said. “I’m not sure it’s possible for us – we love Toronto and Canada, and we know we have the best fans in the NBA. For now, I’ll ask you to cheer us on from afar, and we wait. looking forward to the day we all meet again. “
The 2019 NBA champions haven’t played a home game since a 99-96 loss to Charlotte on February 28.
The NBA saw its 2019-20 season come to a halt in March due to the spread of COVID-19. It resumed on July 30 at a closed “bubble” resort at Walt Disney World near Orlando, Florida.
Like the Raptors, the Blue Jays called on the provincial and federal governments to play at home, but they were turned down. They moved temporarily to Buffalo.
The 2019-20 NHL season also ended in March before continuing in the plate cities of Toronto and Edmonton.