Full capacity for OHL teams in Hamilton, St. Catharines, Mississauga and Oshawa — starting Saturday

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Published October 8, 2021 at 5:36 pm

The Ontario Hockey League can un-cap its seating capacity, just in time for the Niagara IceDogs’ and Hamilton Bulldogs’ home openers.

The pro-style hockey league has announced Friday that the Ford Government has okayed all 17 Ontario-based OHL teams to welcome 100 per cent capacity, fully vaccinated crowds, beginning Saturday, which is the third day of the regular season.

The OHL was one of the first sports concerns in the province to require vaccination against for all players and associated personnel. Word of the league’s firm line emerged in mid-July. A month later, it said the requirement would apply to all fans who are old enough to be dosed.

“We are grateful for the continued work and leadership of our government and public health officials led by Premier Doug Ford, Minister of Sport Lisa MacLeod and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Kieran Moore,” OHL commissioner David Branch stated. “(Thursday’s) launch to our 2021-22 regular season was an incredible night for everyone, and more fans being safely permitted to enter OHL facilities across the province only adds to that excitement we’re all feeling.”

Saturday, the IceDogs host the Oshawa Generals at 7 p.m. in their home opener at the Meridian Centre. The Bulldogs’ home opener, against the Barrie Colts, starts at the same time in FirstOntario Centre.

The Oshawa Generals’ first home date where they can try to fill Tribute Communities Centre is on Oct. 17 against the archrival Peterborough Petes. The Mississauga Steelheads’ first home date is on Oct. 22 against the Ottawa 67’s.

“The health and safety of our players, staff, officials, fans, billets and communities is paramount,” Branch added. “We’re very excited to welcome OHL fans back for what’s sure to be a great season.”

Capacity at games in Ontario had been limited to 50 per cent.

The U.S.-based Erie Otters, Flint Firebirds and Saginaw Spirit are only playing each other for the first four weeks of the season. Erie, who has had a robust interconference rivalry with Niagara over the years, makes its first post-pandemic visit to St. Catharines on Nov. 4.

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