Once the 2020 Major League Baseball season got off to a delayed start, the Canadian government did not allow the Toronto Blue Jays to play in Toronto. The team played in Florida (its training camp home) and Buffalo (home to its top Minor League affiliate) through 2020 and part of 2021. Now, though, the Blue Jays are back in Toronto at long last.
On March 16, 2020, the U.S. and Canada closed their northern border by “mutual consent.” On July 15, 2021, Canada announced that fully vaccinated Americans may travel to Canada beginning in mid-August.
Per the Associated Press, Canada wanted to attain a 75% vaccination rate before relaxing border restrictions.
Indeed, Canada’s vaccination rate has climbed. Our World in Data maps Canada’s progress.
Effects of the Closures
The National Hockey League, too, faced logistical hurdles in response to this prolonged closure.
The NHL reorganized its regular season to have its Canadian teams play only against each other. It eventually allowed border crossing for its postseason playoff, the Stanley Cup.
Teams had to test negative before traveling, fly on private planes, and quarantine upon arrival, per the agreement.
The Blue Jays spent much of their time stateside in Buffalo, just south of the Canadian border. In the Buffalo area alone, border closures could result in up to a $1 billion loss in economic impact, Buffalo Niagara Partnership CEO Dottie Gallagher tells ABC 7 Buffalo.
No doubt the emotional cost has been high, too. Here, residents of Vermont and Quebec tell Canadian outlet Global News of their excitement over reuniting with friends and family across the border.
Making it Work Stateside
Blue Jays communications officer Rodney Hiemstra points out some impressive attendance numbers in Buffalo.
Per the Buffalo News, the Blue Jays’ temporary home saw some major renovations in order to host the team. They included expanded clubhouses, new bullpens, new outfield grass, relocated batting cages, and a converted team dining hall. The stadium also improved accommodations for visitors and umpires and added Blue Jays signage.
A baseball fan quoted by NBC 2 Buffalo says he might make a trip north now that the Blue Jays are back in Toronto. Brad Bisbing, assistant general manager for marketing and public relations for the Jays’ Buffalo affiliate (the Bisons), tells the outlet that the return of MLB ball to the stadium under normal circumstances is unlikely. Still, he believes the improved facilities are a big benefit for the Bisons.
Glad to Have the Blue Jays Back
Tao of Stieb, a pseudonymous writer for Canada’s SportsNet, says the Blue Jays’ return home will be deeply meaningful to fans and players – many of whom haven’t ever played in Toronto – alike.
“This team has yet to feel that level of intensity from a home crowd, and while that alone doesn’t win games, it may help them to focus and harness their ability to rise to the next level. And as they improve and win, the intensity of the connection with the home crowd will grow even more.”
Indeed, the fans’ reception of their hometown heroes backs up that sentiment.
For Toronto, having the Blue Jays back marks yet another key step in the return to normal.
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