TORONTO | For a first game of this strange 2021 season, it was the classic of the classics: a duel between the Canadian and the Maple Leafs. But there was not the same energy in a context where COVID-19 has cut off all form of normalcy.
• Read also: Joe Thornton: a reassuring presence
• Read also: The Canadian can go “to the end”, believes Claude Julien
In the streets of Toronto, we did not feel the excitement of a new season. As in Montreal, the downtown area of the Queen City offers a sad landscape. There is hardly any life. The hotels are almost deserted, the restaurants are content with deliveries and orders, and there are very few pedestrians outside.
At the entrance to the Scotiabank Arena, there was no one yelling “tickets for sale!” “. Normal, there were no spectators at this inaugural meeting. Like the playoffs in the Toronto and Edmonton bubbles, games will be held in front of empty stands.
To recreate a form of atmosphere, there is a noise of crowd in cane. It was the same story during the playoffs. But this time, we cranked up the volume a little more. The person responsible for this background noise will also need to find his rhythm. There were times when fake spectators reacted to mundane games, but remained calm after important action.
Inside the amphitheater, there were about thirty journalists on site. That’s a lot more than a game between the Anaheim Ducks and the Arizona Coyotes, but it’s far from the usual anthill for the Canadiens’ visit to Toronto. Normally, there would be close to 100 journalists on the press bridge.
From experience, there were always too many scribes in the opposing team’s tiny dressing room at Scotiabank Arena. This year, there will be no problem since the locker rooms will remain closed to the press. Interviews with players and coaches will take place virtually, whether after a practice or a game.
Despite the absence of spectators, the Leafs have recreated an interesting atmosphere for the pre-game. They had the good idea to invite doctors, nurses, teachers, farmers and paramedics for the presentation of the Maple Leafs players. Frontline workers recorded a small introductory message broadcast on the giant screen.
For this season when all the matches will take place within the North (Canadian) division, we will also have to adapt to another reality, that of a single national anthem. Seated in the stands, singer Martina Ortiz-Luis performed O Canada in both official languages.