The Toronto Blue Jays haven’t played at the Rogers Centre since the end of the 2019 season, with the COVID-19 pandemic closing the border between the United States and Canada and forcing most Canadian teams (besides the NHL) to relocate elsewhere for the 2020 and 2021 campaigns.
With today being Canada Day, the Blue Jays will be playing today’s game in Buffalo this year, a somewhat time-honoured tradition to play the Canada Day game in Toronto. The Jays are currently scheduled to play in Buffalo until at least the end of July, meaning any potential move back to the Rogers Centre this year would either take place in August or beyond. Earlier this season it seemed like there was no chance the Blue Jays would be playing in Canada this year, but some key developments have occurred this summer that could see this change.
As of right now, the border between Canada and the United States is closed for leisure travel and anyone who enters the country is currently subject to quarantine procedures and only certain individuals can enter for specific reasons. This has been the biggest hurdle for the Blue Jays to return home, as the Canadian government has not allowed any special exemptions for the organization or its opponents to enter Canada without having to quarantine, meaning there is no possible way the Jays could play at home.
With the province of Ontario heading towards Step 3 and the Canadian Government providing special exemptions for travel for NHL teams, the Toronto Blue Jays are starting to see a glimmer of hope when it comes to possibly playing at the Rogers Centre this season.
Starting July 5th, individuals who are fully vaccinated and are asymptomatic will be eligible to enter Canada and not have to quarantine at the hotel. You will still have to provide an appropriate plan for your stay and get tested upon your arrival, but it’s a step in the right direction towards open borders.
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Another key component to a potential return is how the Federal Government provided a special exemption for NHL teams in the playoffs, allowing teams from the USA to travel to Montreal instead of forcing the Canadiens to play in the United States. The rules were pretty simple, opponents must undergo daily testing and live in a quarantine bubble away from the general public, as well as travel by private plane (which they already do for the most part).
These types of regulations could also be met by the Blue Jays, considering any opponent who travels to the Rogers Centre could stay at the adjacent Marriot City Centre Hotel and only travel to the hotel to the games. Daily covid testing should not be too much of an issue given the availability to the general public at the moment.
Major league teams already travel by private planes as well as any coaching staff, so Major League Baseball and the organization could strike a similar deal with the Canadian Government, providing the Blue Jays players will most likely have to follow the same guidelines as their opponents when they return to Canada and then travel back to the United States.
Lastly and most importantly, COVID-19 cases are starting to come down in Ontario and across Canada, with the province reporting less than 200 new cases just yesterday. As the vaccine becomes more available and people are now starting to get their second doses, restrictions are starting to ease off and are currently moving towards Step 3 in the process. This step is where the Blue Jays may be able to return home (with permission from the Federal and Provincial level) as well as potentially having fans in the stadium as well, most likely a limited capacity similar to Montreal in the NHL playoffs.
Overall, while August would be great to see the Blue Jays back in the Rogers Centre, September seems more of a possibility at this time. It would allow for the team and the league to get their ducks in a row before trying to submit a new letter/proposal to the Canadian government.
If the travel restrictions between both countries ease off over the next month then August could become a better possibility, but September seems like the month they should be aiming for.