The Tampa Bay Raptors definitely has a weird ring to it. According to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, the Toronto Raptors will begin the 2020-21 season in Tampa, Fla., due to Canadian COVID-19 restrictions.
The Canadian federal government denied the Raptors’ plan to begin the season in Toronto, per the Toronto Star’s Doug Smith. This was expected, and the Raptors began their search for a temporary home within the United States a while ago.
“The Raptors worked diligently with public health officials at the local, provincial and federal level to secure a plan that would permit us to play our 2020-21 season on home soil and on our home court at Scotiabank Arena,” Raptors president Masai Ujiri said in a statement. “These conversations were productive, and we found strong support for the protocols we put forward. Ultimately, the current public health situation facing Canadians, combined with the urgent need to determine where we will play means that we will begin our 2020-21 season in Tampa, Florida.”
The Raptors did not specify where they will play games, though it was reported last week that Amalie Arena, home of the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning, is a likely destination. However, Tampa also is being considered as an NHL hub city for the upcoming season. If the league decides to go that route, the city won’t be able to host up to eight NHL teams and an NBA organization at the same time.
NHL discussions precede Toronto’s decision to play in Florida, so the Tampa Bay Times says the NHL would have priority over the Raptors.
Buffalo, Kansas City, Louisville, Nashville and Newark also were possibilities to host the Raptors.
We saw Toronto’s Major League Baseball team, the Blue Jays, relocate to Buffalo for the 2020 season due to Canadian government restrictions, so it’s not a surprise that the Raptors are being forced to do the same.
Erin Walsh is a Boston sports fan through and through. Although many think Boston sports fans are insufferable, Erin tries to see things from a neutral perspective. Her passion is hockey, and she believes defense wins championships. In addition to covering sports for Yardbarker, she covers Boston sports for NBC Sports Boston. Follow her on Twitter @ewalsh90