Toronto's ban on public events through June 30 casts doubt on NBA, NHL, MLB seasons

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(Getty Images)

It’s natural to hold out hope that sports will return at some point in the relatively near future. 

But the more information we get on the coronavirus and how it’s impacting people and cities across the world — and more importantly, how it's trending toward larger and larger impacts — that hope seems to be fading more and more. 

For example, the city of Toronto on Tuesday banned all "city-led and permitted" events through June 30. A spokesman for Mayor John Tory later told reporters that the ban does not apply to sporting events, but the province of Ontario has "banned organized public events and social gatherings of more than (five) people."

The end of June is three months away. That's the type of impact we’re talking about. And who knows what the world will look like in three weeks, much less three months? 

MORE: Pros and cons of NFL's playoff expansion

Sports have to take a back seat, no matter how much we might want sports to drive the conversation. Let's look at this latest news — Toronto is one of the first, if not the first, major city to ban public events for that long a time — from a practical standpoint.

Both the NBA and NHL have pressed pause on their seasons. Normally, they’d be wrapping up their playoffs and crowning a champion in early June. Even if the NBA decided to start playing games before the end of June, it's possible the reigning champion Raptors couldn’t play home games in their title defense — they’re currently second in the Eastern Conference — until July, and that's if the NBA just went straight to the playoffs. 

In the NHL, the Maple Leafs are in playoff position, too, though it's not nearly as solid as the Raptors'; they’re third in the Atlantic Division. Same thing, though. No home games (unless games were allowed to be played in empty arenas and stadiums) until at least the beginning of July. 

And baseball? That's interesting. The MLB Players Association and MLB powers that be are deep in negotiations about how the 2020 season might play out. Contingency plans are being made, and thinking is outside the box. Games in front of no fans could happen. Games played in a handful of cities, to reduce travel, could happen. But the problem is, they’re trying to hit a moving target. There are no solid answers. If they knew when they could start, a plan could be made.

Early June seemed optimistic, and maybe possible. But with this news — more importantly, how an actual city government views the crisis — that seems like it's out the window. We just don't know much right now.

What we do know, though, is this: There may not be any games played in front of fans in Toronto until at least July. That’s a sobering thought, and a reminder to stay inside and keep your distance if you have to go out. 

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