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COVID-19 restrictions cut Toronto's Scotiabank Arena capacity in half – The Globe and Mail

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Toronto Maple Leafs fans applaud their team as they play against the Montreal Canadiens at Scotiabank Arena, on Oct. 13, 2021.Dan Hamilton/USA TODAY Sports via Reuters

Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment will reduce the seating capacity at Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena by 50 per cent as of Saturday to comply with new COVID-19 restrictions issued Wednesday by the Ontario government.

MLSE, which owns the NHL’s Maple Leafs and Toronto Raptors of the NBA, said it supports the province’s decision and will continue to work with government and public-health officials to try to help limit the spread of the novel coronavirus.

On Wednesday, Ontario announced its highest single-day case load in more than seven months. Of the 1,808 people newly infected more than half were fully vaccinated. Numbers are increasing dramatically due to a more contagious variant of COVID-19 called Omicron.

The move by MLSE means that crowds will be limited to 9,900 at Raptors games and 9,400 when the Maple Leafs are on home ice. The Raptors are at home on Saturday against Golden State and Monday against Orlando. The Maple Leafs do not play again at the arena until Dec. 23 when the St. Louis Blues pay a visit.

“Our ticketing team is working through the logistics of implementing this change and will provide follow-up details to all ticket-holders within 24 hours,” a statement provided by MLSE said.

An enhanced protocol called Operation Mask Up (or out) is also being implemented. It will require everyone in attendance to strictly adhere to the mask-wearing policy or risk ejection from the building. Since the beginning of their seasons, both teams have required guests to show proof that they are fully vaccinated or provide a recent negative COVID-19 test.

The 50-per-cent capacity rule would also apply to BMO Field, the home of the CFL’s Argonauts and Toronto FC soccer club, but their seasons are over.

The new provincial restrictions would have greatly reduced the attendance at Sunday’s Grey Cup game in Hamilton which attracted a standing-room crowd of more than 26,000 people.

NHL postpones more games as COVID-19 cases among players continue to rise

The Ottawa Senators also announced that they would comply with the 50-per-cent capacity limit at Canadian Tire Centre.

Tougher restrictions are being imposed as COVID-19 numbers increase throughout the sports world. The NHL has been especially hard hit, and as of Tuesday nine games had been postponed because of outbreaks among players. The league then announced Wednesday that Calgary’s Saturday home game against Columbus has been scrapped as well.

The Flames currently have 16 players, three coaches and seven other staff members on the NHL’s protocol list.

Cases exploded dramatically on Tuesday and the trend continued on Wednesday. The Nashville Predators announced that six players, their head coach and five other members of their travelling party are now in the COVID-19 protocol, the Florida Panthers added five players and some other staff members, the Boston Bruins added star centre Patrice Bergeron to it as well.

On Tuesday night, two Vancouver players were pulled during a game against Columbus after a second set of tests undertaken earlier in the day indicated that they have COVID. Edmonton’s head coach Dave Tippett learned late in the day that he also had tested positive and could not be behind the team’s bench. The Oilers then also entered a player into the protocol on Wednesday morning.

With coronavirus cases and postponements climbing, the Associated Press reported that the NHL is about to immediately introduce enhanced protocols that will restrict players to their hotels while on the road. Daily testing will also return for players and coaches as part of an agreement reached between the league and the NHL Players’ Association after two days of meetings and worsening conditions.

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Montreal Canadiens place Alex Belzile on waivers, plus other injury updates – Habs Eyes on the Prize

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The Montreal Canadiens have placed forward Alex Belzile on waivers on Monday.

The forward will be assigned to the Laval Rocket should he clear waivers. The 31-year-old was pointless in 11 games this season with the Canadiens. He has four goals and seven assists in 16 AHL games this season.

The team also provided several injury updates, as the new Vice President of Communications Chantal Machabée briefed the media before head coach Dominique Ducharme answered questions.

Joel Edmundson is back from Montreal after being in Manitoba and away from the team. There is no timeline on his return, and the same goes with Carey Price.

Jake Allen will undergo an MRI, while Paul Byron and Tyler Toffoli are nearing a return.

Cayden Primeau will start against the Arizona Coyotes on Monday afternoon. Laurent Dauphin and Josh Anderson also draw back in the lineup. Michael Pezzetta will be a healthy scratch.

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Updates regarding the Canadiens' roster – NHL.com

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GLENDALE – The Canadiens announced the following roster moves on Monday morning.

SHOP: Caufield Blue Socks

Forwards Rafael Harvey-Pinard and Jesse Ylonen were assigned to the Laval Rocket.

Meanwhile, defenseman Gianni Fairbrother has joined the Rocket and returned to training, having completed his period of isolation required by the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol.

The Canadiens will face the Coyotes in Arizona on Monday, January 17.

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Novak Djokovic could be barred from French Open if unvaccinated – CBC.ca

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Novak Djokovic returned home Monday after being thwarted from defending his Australian Open title only to face a new predicament: He could be barred from the French Open this year, too, if he’s still not vaccinated against COVID-19.

A plane carrying the No. 1-ranked player touched down in his native Serbia, closing at least the first chapter in a dizzying drama that has resonance in the world of elite sports, Australia’s pandemic politics and the polarized debate over the coronavirus shots.

A handful of fans waving the Serbian flag greeted him at Belgrade’s airport. Djokovic has an almost iconic status in Serbia, and many there felt he was poorly treated by Australia.

But his troubles may not be over yet: He could be barred from the French Open this year, under a new law intended to exclude the unvaccinated from stadiums and other public places. Much could change between now and the start of the Grand Slam tournament in late May, but that raised the spectre the recent saga in Australia would be not just a blip but an ongoing challenge for the athlete, who is increasingly being held up as a hero by the anti-vaccine movement.

A member of the French Parliament, Christophe Castaner, said the new law will apply to anyone who wants to play in the French Open — a reversal of earlier plans to create a “bubble” around the tournament.

“To do your job, to come for pleasure or leisure, to practice a sport, it will be necessary to present a vaccine. This will be valid for people who live in France but also for foreigners who come to our country for vacation or for a major sports competition,” Sports Minister Roxana Maracineanu told BFM television on Monday.

But some details of the law are still being hashed out, including how it will deal with people who have recently recovered from COVID-19, as Djokovic has. The question is how recent the infection must be to qualify for an exemption to vaccination rules. France’s sports ministry said Monday once the law is in place, there will be no exceptions until further notice.

WATCH | Djokovic deported from Australia after losing final appeal:

Novak Djokovic deported from Australia after losing final appeal

18 hours ago

Duration 2:01

Top-ranked tennis player Novak Djokovic has been deported from Australia after losing his final appeal to not have his visa revoked, meaning he could not compete in the Australian Open. Djokovic’s lack of COVID-19 vaccination has galvanized tennis fans, Australians and become a rallying cry for anti-vaxxers. 2:01

Djokovic is also the defending champion at Wimbledon, which begins in late June. But so far, England has allowed exemptions from various coronavirus regulations for visiting athletes, if they remain at their accommodation when not competing or training. The U.S. Tennis Association, which runs the U.S. Open, has said it will follow government rules on vaccination status.

It’s also not clear when Djokovic could head back to Australia. Deportation can lead to a three-year ban on returning to the country, although that can be waived, depending on the circumstances.

For now, a warm welcome awaits Djokovic, who has overwhelming support in his native Serbia where his closest family lives. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has accused the Australian government of “harassing” the top-ranked tennis star and urged him to return home.

Novak Djokovic plays a forehand during a practice session ahead of the 2022 Australian Open in Melbourne on Friday. A court upheld a decision by the immigration minister to cancel the 34-year-old Serb’s visa on public interest grounds. (Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

Denied entry to Australia

“God bless you Novak,” read one of the banners held by the fans at the airport as he was whisked through the passport control and customs and then driven by his brother Djordje to his apartment in Belgrade.

The official Tanjug news agency reported that Djokovic’s mother, Dijana, said her son will remain in Belgrade in the coming days and won’t make statements for the media.

WATCH | Djokovic says his agent made error on Australia entry form:

Novak Djokovic blames human error for inaccurate travel declaration

5 days ago

Duration 1:52

Novak Djokovic says human error is to blame for an inaccurate travel declaration form that claimed the tennis champion hadn’t travelled for two weeks before arriving in Australia for an upcoming tournament in Melbourne. 1:52

Djokovic’s Australian saga began when he was granted an exemption to strict vaccination rules by two medical panels and the tournament organizer in order to play in the Australian Open because he had recently recovered from COVID-19. He received a visa to enter the country through an automated process. But upon arrival, border officials said the exemption was not valid and moved to deport him.

The initial news that the star had been granted the exemption sparked anger in Australia, where strict lockdowns in cities and curbs on international travel have been employed to try to control the spread of the coronavirus since the pandemic began.

More than 95 per cent of all top 100 men and women tennis players in their tours’ respective rankings are vaccinated. At least two other men – American Tennys Sandgren and Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert — skipped the Australian Open due to vaccine requirements.

In the end, Australian authorities revoked Djokovic’s visa, saying his presence could stir up anti-vaccine sentiment and kicking him out was necessary to keep Australians safe. He was deported Sunday, a day before the tournament got underway in Melbourne.

Djokovic has won nine titles there previously. He had hoped this year to secure his 21st Grand Slam singles trophy, breaking the record he shares with rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal for the most in the history of men’s tennis. Federer is not playing while recovering from injury, but Nadal is competing.

WATCH | Canadians to watch at Australian Open:

Canadians to watch at the 2022 Australian Open

3 days ago

Duration 3:17

CBC Sports’ Vivek Jacob walks through the Canadian tennis stars you should be watching as they gear up to compete in the 2022 Australian Open 3:17

As the legal battle played out in Australia, Djokovic acknowledged he had attended an interview in Belgrade in December with journalists from L’Equipe newspaper after testing positive for the coronavirus. He later described this “an error” of judgment.

Asked if Djokovic would face any penalties for flouting his isolation while being infected when he returns to Serbia, Serbian officials said he would not because the country is not in a state of emergency.

Djokovic is a national hero in Serbia, whose president had called the court hearing in Australia “a farce with a lot of lies.”

“Novak, welcome home, you know that we all support you here,” said Snezana Jankovic, a Belgrade resident. “They can take away your visa, but they cannot take away your Serbian pride.”

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