The Blue Jackets seem poised to play upcoming home games in front of fans despite Ohio Governor Mike DeWine’s suggestions to avoid the spread of coronavirus.
Update: Governor DeWine announced that the suggestion will turn into an order.
At a minimum, what we said yesterday about mass gatherings will become an order. #COVID19
— Governor Mike DeWine (@GovMikeDeWine) March 11, 2020
Blue Jackets reject governor’s suggestion, at least for now
The Blue Jackets shared their current plan in this lengthy, somewhat eyebrow-raising statement:
The Columbus Blue Jackets are aware of the recommendation by Governor DeWine that events at indoor sports and entertainment facilities be conducted without spectators. We have been in contact with the National Hockey League and, given the facts before us, it has been determined that our scheduled games, including this Thursday vs. Pittsburgh and Saturday vs. Nashville, will go on as scheduled and be open to ticketed fans that wish to attend.
Our club, the NHL and Nationwide Arena have been monitoring Coronavirus COVID-19 very closely. The NHL has been in regular communication with the Center for Disease Control, Public Health Canada, numerous medical advisors and other leagues and we are committed to the health and safety of our players, staff and fans. To that end, guests should adhere to recommendations that suggest persons at higher risk, including elderly individuals and those with currently compromised health issues or who are feeling ill, avoid large-scale public events.
Nationwide Arena has protocols in place to enhance procedures to fight the spread of viruses as they arise. In the case of COVID-19, additional steps have been taken that include an expanded, detailed cleaning throughout all areas of the arena and an increase in the number of hand sanitizer dispensers available to all. We also encourage guests to continue to practice routine hygiene etiquette as the best way to prevent the spread of viruses.
The club, League and Nationwide Arena will continue to closely monitor the situation as it evolves. It remains very fluid and any additional information or changes will be communicated at the appropriate time.
As the Blue Jackets mentioned in their statement, their upcoming home games include Thursday’s contest against the Penguins, and then Saturday’s match with the Predators.
A “fluid situation”
DeWine laid out his suggestions on Twitter, including this specific bit about sporting events (or “athletics”).
ATHLETICS: For indoor events, we are asking for no events with spectators other than the athletes, parents, and others essential to the game.
Right now, outdoor events can continue. #COVID19
— Governor Mike DeWine (@GovMikeDeWine) March 10, 2020
DeWine extended that suggestion to high school sports (OHSAA) and the Cleveland Cavaliers, as well. The Athletic’s Aaron Portzline confirms (sub required) that the OHSAA is accepting DeWine’s regulation, and Portzline also backs up the note in the Blue Jackets’ statement that this is a “fluid situation.”
(For one thing, DeWine could ramp up that “suggestion” to more of an edict. One can see that escalation happen regarding the Sharks, who are pondering answers following Santa Clara County making the call.)
Portzline also shared this … interesting quote from Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno.
“I don’t want to be ignorant about people who have dealt with (COVID-19),” Foligno said, “but I’ve read up on it and talked to my wife about it, and if you take the necessary precautions you should be all right. If you live in fear, it’s not a good way to live life.”
Personally, I can’t help but wonder if there’s some natural fear of … you know, being sued. Portzline and others seem to bring up that thought, too.
Now that Gov. DeWine has recommended that indoor sporting events be held without spectators, sports franchises – pro, amateur, etc. – are in a tough spot.
Imagine they’d be vulnerable to litigation if they don’t heed the governor’s word and fans became sick or even died.
— Aaron Portzline (@Aportzline) March 10, 2020
Five home games remaining for Blue Jackets in regular season
Perhaps that’s part of the Blue Jackets approaching dealing with coronavirus fears as a “fluid situation?” Will there be virus-related fine print on every ticket? A waiver next to hand sanitizer dispensers?
Maybe the Blue Jackets simply believe they can get through these games, just barely. They only play five more home games in the 2019-20 regular season: March 12, 14, 19, 30, and finally April 2. It’s conceivable that the Blue Jackets could thread the needle by not having to eat the money from playing in front of empty arenas or at neutral locations.
For all we know, Governor DeWine might take away any choice in this matter. For now, though, it looks like the Blue Jackets are politely disagreeing with DeWine’s coronavirus-related warning, and will go ahead with home games as planned.
Ohio sports fans … I’d stay home if I had the option. Just saying.
MORE ON THE RIPPLE EFFECTS OF THE CORONAVIRUS FOR HOCKEY EVENTS
- NHL monitoring, limiting employee travel.
- Stick shortages among many smaller concerns.
- Coronavirus might prevent NHL from participating in preseason games in China.
- Locker rooms closed to media to mitigate risks.
- Sharks mull over options.
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.