Wed. Aug 10th, 2022

The Ottawa 67’s home opener will be the first major sporting event in Ottawa after the Ontario government lifted capacity restrictions in places where proof of vaccination is required.

The Ontario Hockey League (OHL) team will officially be able to fill the arena with 8,000 seats at TD Place for the game on Sunday afternoon — although it expects less than half that number.

The OHL canceled last year’s season as the province battled the third wave of the pandemic, and about 67 fans are excited about the team’s return.

“It’s incredible,” said Louis Bouliet, a longtime fan of the ’67s. “It’s just such a fun experience to have the big crowds. It’s so nice to have a bunch of people cheering with you.”

Bouliet said securing spectators is both vaccinated and masked, making him feel “pretty safe” by attending the event.

But Dr. Robert Cushman, acting health officer in Renfrew County, urged people to continue to be cautious despite the new rules.

He said Ontario’s relatively low numbers of cases and high vaccination rates could help explain why the government chose to lift the restrictions, especially as some of the targeted industries were hardest hit during the pandemic.

“You can see where it’s coming from,” he said. “But like everyone else, I’m not sure I can see where it’s going. So I was honestly a little surprised, even though I understand the reasoning behind it. [the decision]. “

‘All hands on deck’

Seat sales represent the primary revenue stream for the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (OSEG), which owns Ottawa 67’s and Redblacks.

The group reduced 40 percent of its staff at TD Place in September 2020, citing a decline in revenue due to the pandemic.

OSEG President and CEO Mark Goudie said the group has since hired about 30 people, about half of whom have previously worked with the organization.

But with lifted capacity constraints, OSEG’s current challenge lies in hiring game day staff.

OSEG President and CEO Mark Goudie said it is “all hands on deck” in an effort to hire enough game day staff to meet expected crowds for the 67s and Redblacks. (Judy Trinh / CBC News)

Redblacks usually operate with about 800 part-time employees in each game, but Goudie said OSEG currently draws from a pool that is half as large.

“What’s meant for vaccine control is that our office staff – me, my people, their families, their friends – are out checking vaccine passports or vaccine certificates at games right now,” he said. “It’s all hands on deck.”

67 is not alone

The Ottawa senators announced a capacity of 18,562 for the home field against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday, and the Redblacks are now allowed to sell tickets up to the stadium’s 24,000 seats.

Bouliet bought tickets to 67’s Sunday game and said he hopes to be joined by a full house. But Goudie stressed that there is still a lot of uncertainty surrounding group ticket sales, which are often bought by schools or companies.

“It’s still confusing in terms of what organizations can and can’t do,” he said. “I expect we’ll see something in the order of 3,000 people at the 67’s game.”

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