Raptors to play home games during 2020-21 season in Tampa, Florida

By Anthony Caruso III | Publisher

The Toronto Raptors, like the Toronto Blue Jays, have been denied to play in Canada. As a result, they’ll be known as the Tampa Raptors.

The team has announced that they will begin their season at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida. Canadian government have restricted travel North of the Border due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet drives to the basket against the Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the 2020 Eastern Conference Semifinals
Fred VanVleet drives to the basket against the Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the 2020 Eastern Conference Semifinals (Photo by the Toronto Raptors/Instagram)

The 2019 NBA Champions have reportedly been looking at locations for weeks due to this lock down in Canada. The team also considered playing at the home of the Florida Panthers at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida.

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However, the Raptors were put in a tough spot once the league announced that they would begin their new season on December 22nd. This caused the only NBA team located in Canada to force a decision.

Instead of playing at the home of the Panthers, they’ll be playing at the home of the NHL’s 2020 Stanley Cup Champions. Amalie Arena is the home of the Tampa Bay Lightning, who defeated the Dallas Stars in the Stanley Cup Finals.

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“Ultimately, the current public health situation facing Canadians, combined with the urgent need to determine where we will play means that we will begin our 2020-21 season in Tampa, Florida,” Raptors President Masai Ujiri said in a statement on Friday.

The Canadian government will not allow United States citizens to travel into Canada due to the coronavirus. This was also the reason why the Blue Jays were forced to play their 2020 games at road venues, before Sahlen Field became available in Buffalo, New York.

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Like the Raptors, the Blue Jays were banned from playing the 2020 season in Canada. The team announced a planned move to Pittsburgh, before State officials blocked that move.

The team then eventually settled for Buffalo.

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The Canadian-United States border is closed for nonessential travel. The Raptors prepared in Florida, before the start of the resumed schedule for the NBA in July at the NBA Bubble in Orlando, Florida.

They were preparing at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers, before beginning the NBA schedule once again. With a 72-game schedule, the Raptors are looking at at least 36 games in Tampa if they play all the home games in Florida.

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“So we’ll be away from our home and our fans for now,” Ujiri wrote in his statement. “They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. I’m not sure that’s possible for us — we love Toronto and Canada, and we know we have the best fans in the NBA. For now, I’ll ask you to cheer for us from afar, and we’ll look forward to the day we are all together again.”

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