(Toronto) Normally, it would have swarmed a lot more than that around the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto on this little Tuesday evening both rainy and chilly.
In normal times, the restaurants in the area would have been crowded, the hotels near the arena too, and the ticket resellers, still a classic even in the digital age, would have been very active for the big game, the first of this new season.
But we didn’t see any of that when we got here. No banner, no fan already tipsy, in short, nothing to indicate that this is where the season for the Canadiens and the Maple Leafs will begin on Wednesday night. In fact, if it hadn’t been for the friendly young man at our hotel counter, who himself wanted to talk about hockey, it would have been hard to understand that the puck is about to be thrown on the ice to mark the occasion of a new season.
Another proof that we are not in normal times: it was in front of the somewhat nervous and cold eye of a camera that the Leafs players discussed the situation on Tuesday morning. “We miss our fans sorely,” Auston Matthews began by saying.
The star striker of the Leafs is quite right, in substance as in form: indeed, it will be lacking fans Wednesday night here, because the Leafs, like all Canadian teams in the NHL for that matter, will have to start. this season like no other in front of absolutely no one. This is why the Scotiabank looked like a big ghost ship when we passed Tuesday night, and apart from this slightly shady guy who had chosen to relieve himself on one of the walls in the plaza, he didn’t. there was no form of activity to report.
Anyway, with Ontario not doing very well, the fans in the stands, it’s not for now. “It’s not part of the conversations we’re having right now,” said Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan.
It will therefore be necessary to get used to deserted arenas for the moment, and the players have understood that. Here in Toronto, it will be the first time in 104 years of history that an opener has been presented in front of an empty bench. It turns out that it will be against the Canadiens, but with no one to applaud, what can that make a difference?
But hey, we can assume that this calendar focused on geographic rivalries will end up giving us some good moments. In the meantime, we prefer to stick to politeness.
“The Canadian can bet on two big duos in defense,” admitted defenseman Jake Muzzin. It’s going to be a big challenge when the time comes to try to place attackers in front of their net. ”
Coach Sheldon Keefe already sees this Canadian as a formidable opponent. “This team is one of the tough teams we will have to play against,” he said without specifying the number, because the Leafs, it must be remembered, will have only six opponents this season. All difficult? Time will tell us.
Until then, that will be it. When the lights go on Wednesday night on the ice surface, there will be no one, no one other than the players, who have decided, basically, to play for the good of the human race, if we can paraphrase somewhat what Commissioner Gary Bettman said on Monday.
“We are excited to go and play even though there will be no one there,” said forward John Tavares. We are excited about what we can accomplish as a team. It will be a different year, but we’ll be going one day at a time. ”
One day at a time? It is undoubtedly an excellent strategy. As much in hockey as anywhere else.