Raptors to call Tampa home to open NBA season

1:14 PM ET

ESPN News Services

TORONTO — The Toronto Raptors will start the NBA season next month in Tampa, Florida, because of travel restrictions the Canadian government has put in place stemming from the pandemic.

“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 Friday.

The Raptors had been looking at other sites for several weeks, including Sunrise, Florida, the home of the NHL’s Florida Panthers. But with NBA training camp less than two weeks away and a season starting on Dec. 22, the Raptors were pressed to make a final decision.

Instead, they will play home games at Amalie Arena, home of the Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning.

Steven Stamkos, the captain of the Lightning, welcomed his new neighbors on Twitter with a play on the NBA team’s familiar slogan.

” WE THE SOUTH” 😂 https://t.co/hVHlJKItrh

— Steven Stamkos (@RealStamkos91) November 20, 2020

An official familiar with the Canadian government’s decision told The Associated Press there is too much COVID-19 circulating in the United

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