The federal government has granted the first exemption for a Canadian-based professional sports franchise whose league largely resides in the United States to resume home games in Canada.
The Toronto Blue Jays of Major League Baseball said it has received Ottawa’s National Interest Approval and will return to home games in the city starting July 30 – about two weeks’ time from today.
The announcement made Friday afternoon has major potential implications to Vancouver-based franchises such as Minor League Baseball’s Canadians (the High-A affiliate of the Blue Jays) and Major League Soccer’s Whitecaps FC, both of which have been playing “home games” south of the border (while the Canadian border remains closed to non-essential travel).
The Cs have been playing in Hillsboro, Ore. since the season started in the spring, while Whitecaps FC has been playing home games in Utah this season after spending part of last year in Portland, Ore.
Both clubs have said they want to resume playing in front of fans in Vancouver as soon as they are able, and many fans and followers have been closely following news surrounding the Jays as a potential precursor to what will happen to the Vancouver sports franchises.
The first major professional sports event in B.C. to take place in front of fans in more than a year will likely be the BC Lions’ Aug. 19 tilt with the Edmonton Elks at BC Place Stadium – although the CFL has no U.S. franchises and requires no border exemptions like the Jays, Cs or Whitecaps.
The Jays are the only Canadian franchise currently in the MLB – same as the Cs being the only Canadian Minor League Baseball team. Whitecaps FC is one of three Canadian MLS franchises – alongside Toronto FC and CF Montreal.