As of Jan. 15, 2022, athletes who have not been fully vaccinated from COVID-19 have been barred from entering Canada. This won’t be too big of a deal for Canada’s NHL teams because, according to Commissioner Gary Bettman, just a handful of hockey players have not gotten the jab.
But with the Toronto Raptors in the NBA Playoffs and the Blue Jays a favorite in the American League East, Canada’s policy could impact the world of professional sports and Ontario sports betting.
Wednesday will mark the first NBA Playoff game in Toronto since the fully regulated Ontario sports betting market went live April 4. Wagering also launched before the start of the MLB season.
The series opened in Philadelpha on Saturday and after Game 2 there on Monday, it moves to Toronto for Game 3 on Wednesday and Game 4 on Saturday. If necessary, Game 6 would be in Toronto on April 28. This Sixers have a 2-0 lead in the series.
Sixers Will Be Missing Thybulle
First up, there’s the Raptors vs. the Philadelphia 76ers. Sixers starting guard Matisse Thybulle, who’s not fully vaccinated, will not be making the trip to Scotiabank Arena for Games 3 (Wednesday) and 4 (Saturday), and 6 (April 28), if necessary. To be fully vaccinated means that at least two weeks have passed since a player’s second shot of the two-shot regimen or their first shot of the one-shot regimen.
“This was a decision I made a long time ago,” Thybulle explained at a recent press conference. “I was raised in a holistic household where 'anti-vax' is not a term that was ever used. It’s a weird term that has kind of been thrown around to just label people. But we grew up with Chinese medicine and naturopathic doctors.
”With that upbringing, coming into this situation I felt like I had a solid foundation of medical resources that could serve me beyond what this vaccine could do for me.”
No Second Dose for Thybulle
Thybulle added that he did get a first dose of a vaccine because he believed it would stop him from spreading the virus. When he learned that was not true, he chose not to get the second dose or a booster. Coach Doc Rivers reportedly encouraged Thybulle to get fully vaxxed, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, but the team is not forcing him to get the needle.
Though Thybulle’s points (5.7 per game on average this season) won’t be hard to make up for the Sixers, the lack of his defensive presence and long wingspan could hinder Philadelphia when the Raptors have the ball. Thybulle scored eight points total in the first two games, but did have three blocked shots in Game 2.
Should the Raptors make it to the second round, all of their possible opponents are fully vaccinated. The biggest missed shot could come in the Eastern Conference final, if Toronto keeps winning and ends up in a series with the Brooklyn Nets and Kyrie Irving.
Big Baseball Stars Could Be Out
On the baseball front, there’s not as much clarity on who has and who hasn’t been vaccinated. But based on their previous comments and non-answer answers, the belief is New York Yankee star Aaron Judge and Boston Red Sox ace Chris Sale are the two biggest names in the Blue Jays’ division to still be unvaccinated. Another big star from the NL East to avoid the shots is reportedly Bryce Harper.
The Red Sox are scheduled for four games in Toronto on April 25-28. The Yankees come in for three games May 2-4 and are back for three more June 17-19. The Red Sox return for three June 27-29. The potentially Harper-free Phillies are in for two on July 12-13. The Yankees swing in for three more Sept. 26-28, and Boston visits in Toronto’s final three home games, Sept 30-Oct. 2.
Red Sox manager Alex Cora said this week multiple players would not be making the trip to Toronto. That includes starting pitcher Tanner Houck, who told the Boston Globe he would be traveling.
The Texas Rangers were in Toronto for the opening series April 8-10, but no Rangers player missed the series.
Not only are the Jays a contender to win the AL East, they had the fourth-best odds going into the season to win the World Series.
The Canadian restrictions seem to have helped, despite protests from truckers and others: Canada’s COVID-19 death toll per capita is about one third of the U.S. numbers. Using another metric, Canada has about 17 million more people than Florida, but has reported 2.3 million fewer cases and 35,000 fewer deaths from the virus.