Canadian Hockey League Bans Game, Refuses to Cancel ‘Worst Storm in Canadian History’

In the wake of a public uproar that saw hockey games canceled and players suspended following Canada’s last major winter storm, the Toronto Board of Health has changed how they interpret current regulations requiring fans to remove hats and coats before entering the arena.

The decision follows a request last week from the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs that the game between their team and the New York Rangers be cancelled – similar to the cancellations of other games in the U.S. – after withstanding snow drifts measuring more than a meter high.

But instead of calling the storm the “worst in Canadian history,” the Board of Health stated the current guidelines aren’t fully binding.

“We determined that the regulations apply to indoor and outdoor venues only,” Toronto’s board chair Mike Layton told the Toronto Star. “When an event is outside, the board doesn’t mandate that you have to remove your outer layer of clothing.”

The Board of Health added that since the storm was occurring during an outdoor event at the hockey club’s Air Canada Centre, the regulation has not been applied.

The result of the Board of Health changes means at least two outdoor games, scheduled for earlier this week, have been canceled. The Toronto Maple Leafs said in a statement Monday it was canceling games against the Philadelphia Flyers on March 7 and 7 at the Wachovia Center on March 8.

“I can tell you we asked them to cancel the games,” Leafs’ President Brendan Shanahan told the Chicago Tribune.

Though the NHL could legally push for cancellation, the Toronto Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment, the owner of the Air Canada Centre, maintained they could not legally scrub the game.

The game cancellation was ultimately made at the request of the NHL’s commissioner Gary Bettman who called the storm “unprecedented and extreme,” the Toronto Star reported.

“Canceling a game in today’s climate is reckless and irresponsible and will disrupt fan attendance and related business activity,” Bettman said.

The storm left 1,400 people without power in Ontario’s North York, north of Toronto, and delayed more than 1,200 flights in and out of Toronto Pearson International Airport.

Rival Hockey teams fared no better, with games cancelled and players disciplined. The Tampa Bay Lightning sent forward Jonathan Drouin to Syracuse, New York, to play in a higher level of competition on Saturday, a move which was made following multiple suspensions for NHL players last week.

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