toronto professional sports

How all four of Toronto’s professional sports teams will return to play (or not)

There has been no professional team sports for Toronto fans for almost three months. But, as the COVID-19 pandemic begins to get under control, and society emerges from its months-long quarantine, plans are forthcoming regarding a return-to-play (or not) for the biggest sports leagues in North America.

Here is a rundown of what we can expect over the next couple of months.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Phase 2 of the NHL’s reopening plan got underway on Monday as 31 teams began individual training sessions, 88 days after the league shut down. 

Teams will return to play in two yet-to-be-named hub cities at the end of July or early August. One possible city is Toronto. The games would be played without any fans in attendance. 

This week, according to the NHL, players will only be able to hit the rink on an individual basis. The same goes for off-ice training at the team facilities. A maximum of six players can be present at any one time. The details of Phase 3 and the start of training camps are under negotiation between the NHL and NHLPA and will be announced when an agreement is reached. 

Phase 4 will be in-conference round-robin games, playoff qualifying rounds, and the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The qualifying round of the 24-team tournament will be a best-of-five series. After that, the rest of the four playoff rounds will be best-of-seven. The tournament will be reseeded after every round, not bracketed. 

Under the current system, the Leafs are the eighth-seeded Eastern Conference team and would play the number nine Columbus Blue Jackets. The teams have split the head-to-head games this season with one win each.

 

 

Toronto Raptors

The NBA is a bit further ahead with its return to play format in that it has specific dates. 

The plan calls for 22 teams to restart the season on July 21 at a sports complex in Orlando, Florida. No fans. There will be eight regular-season games played to determine the final seeding for the 16-team playoffs. 

The NBA Finals will end no later than Oct. 12. 

There are six teams currently not in the playoffs, but close enough that they could potentially catch up to the eighth-place team, that have been added to the mix to keep things interesting. Those teams are the Pelicans, Trail Blazers, Suns, Kings, Spurs, and Wizards.

The Toronto Raptors are currently seeded second in the Eastern Conference and are likely to stay there barring any unforeseen craziness. And if all things remain the same they would play the Brooklyn Nets in the first round. The Raptors are 4-1 versus the Nets this season. It has been reported that neither Kyrie Irving nor Kevin Durant will play again this season, which is good news for Raptors fans. 

 

 

Toronto Blue Jays

Things are quite a bit more challenging when it comes to a return to play for the Toronto Blue Jays and Major League Baseball. The owners and players are at odds over a format that would work, and the player compensation that comes with it. 

The latest reported proposal was on Monday when the league detailed plans for a 76-game season that would end on Sept. 27 with a post-season until the end of October. The plan includes a pay cut for players. As a result, those in-the-know suggest this plan is already dead in the water, but it has not been voted on by the players yet. 

This follows on the heels of a plan submitted by the Major League Baseball Players Association for a 112-game season that was rejected by the league. 

Although the Toronto Blue Jays are an exciting young team, they are building for the future and were not seen as a contender for the post-season this year. 

The bottom line is that it is not looking good for MLB this season at all. 

 

 

Toronto FC

Toronto FC players returned to the BMO training ground back on May 11 to begin individual training. And, the moratorium on full team training was lifted on June 4. 

Like the NBA, Major League Soccer is planning on resuming its 2020 season with a tournament in Orlando, Florida. 

The league and the MLS Players Association announced a new collective bargaining agreement last week, which will clear the way for the new season. Full details are expected to be announced soon, but the latest information indicates the tournament would last no longer than 36 days and all 26 teams would be involved. Again, no fans. 

The 2020 MLS season was postponed after just a couple of games with Toronto FC sitting tied for second in the Eastern Conference along with three other teams. 

The team was runner-up in the MLS Cup playoffs last year. One good thing about the long lay-off is that it has given team captain Michael Bradley the chance to heal up from an injury suffered in January. 

 

Article exclusive to TRNTO