As the Toronto Raptors move to Tampa, Fla., to start the NBA season, they can look to some other Canadian teams for tips on life in a temporary locale.
Border restrictions forced four other Canadian clubs to relocate in 2020. Here's a look at how they fared.
TORONTO BLUE JAYS
Like the Raptors, the Jays wanted to play out the Major League Baseball season in Toronto.
The team proposed keeping both the Jays and visiting squads at a hotel located inside their home stadium, Rogers Centre, but the federal government turned down the plan, saying it had concerns about cross-border travel.
The club turned its sights to sharing a ballpark with another major league team, but several prospective hosts fell through, including Pittsburgh and Baltimore.
Eventually the Jays settled on Sahlen Field in Buffalo, N.Y., home to their triple-A affiliate, the Buffalo Bisons.
The team had to upgrade the facility to MLB standards, which included installing new lighting. The work meant the Jays had to play their first five "home" games in Washington D.C. and Philadelphia.
Many Jays were familiar with Sahlen Field, having spent time with the Bisons before moving up to the majors. Outfielder Randal Grichuk called Buffalo the "worst case" scenario before the relocation was confirmed.
Team president Mark Shapiro said that wherever the Jays landed, nothing would replace playing at home.
"We move forward with no excuses," he said. "All of our alternatives are going to be imperfect.''
Life on the road seemed to work for the Jays, however. The squad finished the season with a 32-28 record, including a home record of 17-9.
One enjoyable moment for Toronto fans came when New York Yankees catcher Kyle Higashioka complained about the lighting at Sahlen Field after a loss.
Toronto clinched a wild-card spot in the AL East before being ousted by the Tampa Bay Rays in the first round of the playoffs.
A stop-and-start season saw all three Canadian Major League Soccer clubs live out of hotels and suitcases for much of 2020.
The league's schedule was halted in March when COVID-19 cases ballooned across North America. Teams returned to the field in July with the MLS is Back tournament in Orlando, then faced another short layoff before the Canadian trio played a nine-game series in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. The final leg of the schedule saw all three clubs relocate south of the border in mid-September to finish out the season.
The Impact played just four games in Montreal before moving south to Harrison, N.J., where they played "home" games at Red Bull Arena. The stadium is familiar to coach Thierry Henry, who played five seasons for the Red Bulls.
Henry and his players admitted that living so far from home was difficult, especially for new dads like midfielder Samuel Piette.
"We would have wanted to be at home. But this is not possible for the reason (of COVID-19 border restrictions)," he said. "It is a disadvantage, everyone knows that. It's a disadvantage for Toronto, for Vancouver."
The coach refused to allow the circumstances to be an excuse for some poor performances on the field, however.
The Impact's play was patchy at times, resulting in a 8-13-2 regular-season record. The club's home record was 3-6-1.
Still, Montreal finished ninth in the East, capturing a playoff spot for the first time since 2016.
After finishing the regular-season with a 3-2 victory over D.C. United, the Impact headed home for a break. Unlike other brief sojourns back to Montreal, the team was able to train at their home facilities after MLS received permission from the federal government for clubs to do a "modified work quarantine."
The Impact opened the post-season Friday night against the New England Revolution in the play-in round.
For coach TFC Greg Vanney, moving to Connecticut has been an excellent experience.
"For me … it's the living situation, and the field,'' he said of the club's temporary home of Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Conn. "Those are the most important things, and so far the place that we've been staying has been phenomenal in terms of the living conditions, the food and everything has been great.''
Home to the University of Connecticut Huskies football team, Pratt & Whitney Stadium is a facility Vanney is familiar with, having played there with the U.S. national team.
Hartford has been keen on hosting Canadian clubs during the pandemic. The city also made a pitch to become the Jays' outpost and was rumoured to be on the list of locales the Raptors were considering.
Vanney liked the idea of having the NBA squad in town.
"I don't think our hotel could accommodate both of us at the same time, but it would be great to have them nearby,'' the coach said recently.
East Hartford has been good to Toronto FC.
The club finished the regular season with a 13-5-5 record, including a 7-2-1 home record. Just four of those games were played in Toronto.
TFC head into playoff action with the second-best record in the league. They'll play their first post-season game on Nov. 24.
Life on the road was tough for the Whitecaps.
Only the coaches of other Canadian MLS squads would truly understand what the team was going through, said 'Caps manager Marc Dos Santos.
"For Canadian teams right now with COVID, to win the MLS Cup, they have to go through a kind of 'Mission Impossible' kind of role where they're going to have to grind, find solutions, never be home, always playing on the road. And we have to be incredibly strong mentally,'' he said.
The Whitecaps finished out their season in Portland, playing at Providence Park. Usually, the stadium is occupied by the Timbers — the opponents in the 'Caps first "home" game in September. Vancouver lost 1-0.
While the situation wasn't ideal, the club tried to make the best of their time in Oregon. They trained at the University of Portland and were the only occupants of a downtown hotel outfitted with a pool table, golf simulator, ping-pong table and video games.
Teammates bonded in a unique way, said midfielder Russell Teibert, going for walks in the city and spending more time together than ever before.
“We have a great setup here. I think the club’s done a great job of giving us everything we need to stay occupied," he said. “I’m sure we’re all going to miss this once this ends.”
The 'Caps finished with a 9-14-0 record, including a 6-4-0 home record. The team played three games in Vancouver, only one of which saw fans in the stands.
Sitting ninth in the West, the Whitecaps ended the season outside of the playoffs for the third year in a row.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 20, 2020.
Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press