Covid rules for me, but not for thee? Canadians fume after Ontario govt says NHL teams will be exempt from indoor dining ban

The Ontario government has been accused of favoritism and double standards after deciding that hockey players will be allowed to eat indoors at specified restaurants, bypassing the province’s stay-at-home order.

The teams that comprise the all-Canadian North Division will be permitted to dine at designated restaurants within the province, even while eateries remain closed to the public due to Covid-19 restrictions, Ontario officials announced on Monday. The league will also be allowed to frequent specially selected bars and gyms, the CBC reported.

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The province’s chief medical officer, Dr. David Williams, said the professional athletes would not be subjected to current rules barring indoor dining because of the hockey league’s strict protocols and frequent testing regime. He noted that the players exist in a “bubble” and are not permitted to leave Canada. With their movements tightly controlled, athletes that are not native to the region are in need of places to get a bite to eat, Williams explained. 

“There are some players, of course, this is not their home, and [they] require some place to have some eating and food facilities,” he said. 

Prior to the rule change, teams traveling around Canada during season play were only allowed to be at their hotel, the sporting venue, or the airport. The NHL is expected to submit a plan listing the businesses that it intends to use. The establishments will be required to adhere to strict guidelines while the athletes use their services. For example, restaurants must ensure that they are not swarmed by “spectators” when the professional athletes come to eat, the CBC said. 

Even hockey-loving Canadians seemed to think that the government-granted leeway was inexcusable, with many commenters denouncing the decision as a clear illustration of “double standards.”

“Unfair they even play, I haven’t been allowed to see my parents for months,” vented one angry tweeter. 

The NHL is not “essential” and the league should be boycotted until it adheres to the same rules as everyone else, argued another displeased observer.

Not everyone was peeved by the league’s indoor dining entitlement. One Twitter user argued that players are “under total lockdown” and that the media were misrepresenting the policy to sow division. 

The special privileges bestowed upon NHL players may be short-lived: According to reports, three regions of Ontario are expected to begin easing Covid restrictions this week, which could mean that some residents won’t have to be professional athletes to eat indoors. 

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