Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa, Ont. (Photo by Matthew Fournier on Unsplash)

The Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs will open the NHL season next week at Canadian Tire Centre.

Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Lisa MacLeod announced the Ontario government will allow the Senators and Maple Leafs to play home games in their respective arenas this season and host the other Canadian teams for games. 

The Senators and Maple Leafs will play in the NHL's North Division this season, along with Montreal, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver.

"This approval was granted after close scrutiny of the rigorous health and safety protocols that will be adopted to keep players, staff, and our communities safe from the spread of COVID-19 while permitting Ontario's NHL teams to play the game we all love to watch," said MacLeod in a statement on Twitter.

"I look forward to continued work with both the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Ottawa Senators on a public relations campaign to warn Ontarians against the spread of COVID-19 and to rebuild confidence in minor sports post pandemic."

#Hockey news in Ontario ��

The Ottawa @Senators and Toronto @MapleLeafs will be able to play home games in their respective arena's as they compete in the @NHL North Division. My statement here: pic.twitter.com/Q6bOGJeamV

— Lisa MacLeod (@MacLeodLisa) January 7, 2021

The Athletic's Ian Mendes reported no spectators would be allowed into the arenas when the season starts and the rules are expected to remain in place for the duration of the season.

The Ontario government's approval for the Senators and Maple Leafs to play home games this season comes as southern Ontario remains in a 28-day lockdown to limit the spread of COVID-19. Health officials have recommended residents not travel outside of the province. 

MacLeod's announcement came minutes after Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams said he had not signed off on allowing the Senators and Maple Leafs to play home games this season.

"We have not made a final decision, it's getting very close," said Dr. Williams.

"We've asked our counterparts in Ontario, would be Ottawa and Toronto public health, if they have any concerns or issues. We are still working with our federal counterparts."

The NHL season is set to open next week. The Senators home-opener is Jan. 15 against the Maple Leafs.