The Blue Jackets will play home games without fans in attendance amid coronavirus fears, after all.
Update: the Sharks are following a similar path as far as making home games closed to the public.
After rejecting Ohio Governor Mike DeWine’s suggestion on Tuesday, the Blue Jackets didn’t really have a choice but to change course after DeWine turned that recommendation into an order. Aside from somehow finding an alternate venue that won’t face a similar ban in a short period of time, the Blue Jackets ended up being stuck with this “choice.”
Blue Jackets release statement on playing without fans in attendance
So, beginning with Thursday’s home game against the Penguins, the Blue Jackets will play games in empty arenas. The Blue Jackets clarified as much in this statement:
The Columbus Blue Jackets are aware of Governor DeWine’s announcement today that an order prohibiting mass gatherings in the state of Ohio is forthcoming. We have been in contact with the National Hockey League regarding this matter and will abide by the state’s mandate. Remaining home games while the order is in effect, including tomorrow vs. Pittsburgh, will be played as scheduled, but with restricted attendance in compliance with today’s announcement.
Admission to games will be limited to home and visiting club personnel, credentialed media and broadcast partners, essential club and arena staff and NHL officials. The games will be closed to the public.
The health and well-being of our community is our priority and we appreciate the understanding of our fans, corporate partners and guests under these extraordinary circumstances. Our games will continue to be televised regionally on FOX Sports Ohio and available on the Blue Jackets Radio Network, including flagship station 97.1 The Fan or CD102.5 FM (select games) in Columbus.
The club will work with season ticket, club and premium seat holders on appropriate credits or refunds for affected games, while single-game buyers will receive a refund through their point of purchase. The club will be communicating to season ticket holders, partners and other affected parties with additional information soon.
As you can see above, the Blue Jackets are still hashing out details regarding refunds and similar matters.
More empty arena rulings to come?
Speaking of still hashing out details, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Blue Jackets represent just the beginning of such arena-emptying measures. Santa Clara County instituted a similar ban that affected Sharks games, as just one example.
We’ve seen many big events, including SXSW, get canceled altogether amid coronavirus concerns. On Wednesday, the NCAA announced that popular “March Madness” college basketball tournaments will be played without fans, too.
We’ll need to wait and see if more teams are affected following the Blue Jackets and Sharks. The odds are pretty high that such instances will only grow more prevalent.
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 email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.