Senators games return to full capacity at Canadian Tire Centre
Fans sit spread out in the Canadian Tire Centre as the Ottawa Senators take on the Edmonton Oilers during third period NHL hockey action in Ottawa, on Monday, Jan. 31, 2022. The Senators announced a sell out game of 500 attendees, the maximum number of people permitted for sporting games as of Jan. 31. (Justin Tang/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
The Sens are back to full capacity at the Canadian Tire centre for the first time in months, a rare occurence during the pandemic.
No more empty arena, or even limited crowds -- the Sens can now pack the house.
"I haven't played at home in a while," said Senators forward Josh Norris, who has just returned from an injury.
"I'm very excited to get back in front of our fans," he added.
The Sens have spent most of the last two years under severe capacity restrictions. The team has gone from empty, to 500 fans, to 50 per cent capacity, and now back to being allowed to fill the arena against the Seattle Kraken on Thursday.
For the players, the change provides a much needed boost.
"On the road travelling feeling the crowd and how much of a difference it makes, the increase in attendance will be really nice, feel the adrenaline get our fans behind us and hopefully put on a show for them," said forward Nick Paul.
The Sens are coming off a five-game road trip with just one win, they haven't played at home yet this month. Ontario lifted capacity limits on arenas on March 1.
"You have to have something to look forward to," said TSN 1200's Lee Versage. "They have a bunch of home games here. Whether they sell out or not, the kids can come and players can interact with people a lot more than they have and that means a lot to them."
It's also the first time the Canadian Tire Centre isn't requiring proof of vaccination for patrons.
And welcoming back more fans means a boost for much more than just the team.
"I'm so excited for the people that can finally get back to work, i came in and saw security, parking attendants, people working the concessions, those are the people that it matters, they get to finally go back to work," said Versage.
So as the Sens hit home ice for the first time this month there is a growing sense of normalcy not felt in a long time.