The NHL regular season in 2021 is not going to be like the ones we have watched in the previous years. The club has had the status for giving the most perfect in-games setting of the four main sports. However, this season has commenced without the fans in most teams. Recently, the league and NHLPA agreed on having the 2020-21 season start on the 13th of January. For the team, the normal 82 games season is reduced to 56 games season.
There will be four distinct divisional alignments established at the geographical locale. One of these constitutes the entire Canadian teams. The NHL has been honest about getting their fans back into the arena this season. Some selected teams are allowing a restricted number of fans. This is going to help them earn revenue from ticket sales. It is anticipated that more hockey lovers will be permitted as the season progresses and vaccines become more available.
The Seating Arrangements Versus Reduced Number of Fans
The League’s emphasis is on promoting fan safety and any probable outdoor game or Winter Classic
during the regular season. Teams allowing fans in the auditorium to watch their favorite players in person are having them sit in pods. They are within social distance protocols and safely limited enthusiasts are sitting with those they arrived with.
Ticket holders for the existing season are among the first to be allowed to buy pods for their teams’ home contests. Tickets are sold by secondary market places and the teams too. The pods are not to be detached to include those people who didn’t come to the tournament together. The fans are therefore not at risk of touching the other pods when they are seated.
How the League is handling COVID-19
With the official league protocol, coaches, players, and every staff have to embrace the strict guidelines when on the road or at home. This comprises avoiding shopping, public transport, and not dining with people from other families. Wear face coverings or masks when interacting with other players or at the facility. Players will remain in the same training groups off the ice during training camp and 10 or less to exercise in the weight area.
Any person with reported symptoms will be expected to self isolate. For the recorded positive tests, they will stay in isolation till medically cleared to go back to the team workouts. The club’s doctor has to confirm that the individual poses no danger to others. The positive tests are not made public, though they are to be reported in the regular season. At the end of the training camp, the league discloses the total number of positive tests without giving names. Before going back to play, the players have to pass the cardiac screening.
Which NHL Teams Are Having Fans This Season?
- Tampa Bay Lightning
- St.Louis Blues
- New York Islanders
- New York Rangers
- Florida Panthers
- Nashville Predators
- Columbus Blue Jackets
- Dallas Stars
- Arizona Coyotes
- Buffalo Sabre
Others like Ottawa Senators, are not having fans. However, it was reported that there are plans to allow 6000 NHL fans into the Canadian Tire Centre, where the team plays. And it will be on a nightly basis. This will quicken the release of the results to allow people to be aware of their COVID-19 status. Eugene Melnyk (who has been in the news quite a bit lately – check out this article titled Newspaper apologizes to Senators owner Eugene Melnyk) also said the priority is on the safety and health of their fans.
Why Is Tampa Bay Still Not Having Fans?
This team saw their fans last at the Stanley Cup championship festival in September. The celebration started with a social distance boat march on the bay. This was before the players and fans began exchanging spit from the Stanley cup bowl later. Lighting expected to see their fans during the opening night for the regular season, to raise their Stanley Cup banner. When the state provided the green light for capacity at indoor sporting games, Vinik Sports Group, operated with the USF School of Medicine and Tampa General Hospital.
One week before the league’s season, Tampa gave alternatives to prevailing season ticket holders to purchase 14 or 7 tickets plans for this year’s season. The sales were well done even though some ticket holders were hoping to be away from the arena this season. The reason is for them to keep their cash for the following season which is 2021-22. In the process, they will get a five percent loyalty credit. Moreover, on the 7th of January, the ownership and executive team met and made a distinct decision. They were not pleased with the surging numbers of positive cases in Hillsborough County, hence, had to change their decision. This meant, no fans for the team and the same for the Raptors events for the time being.
Lightning’s executive vice president noted that the team is optimistic about the executed protocols for the Raptors games. The plexiglass dividers, the new cashless transaction system, and social distance criteria are becoming consistent around the venue. This is as the team reopens amid the pandemic. He also added that although the Raptors and Tampa Bay Buccaneers(NFL)had fans in the stands for contests, there was no pushback from the fans. This was regarding the decision made. The league proceeded to clinch a banner raising for the 2020 Stanley Cup on the 17th of February.
Are The Fans Adjusting to The Prolonged Coronavirus Pandemic?
Many teams are proceeding with a unique 2021 season. They are playing without fans as they also fight the virus to provide a fun product. Nevertheless, the club has to find strategies to improve the fans’ experience as time goes by. Many local authorities have banned massive gatherings in most of the NHL cities(31).
Numerous tournaments have been played with no fans. The NHL is seeking to find ways of incorporating the fanatics in the arena. This is via the usage of cardboard cutouts and additional initiatives. Teams have positioned tarps to cover up the unoccupied seats. What’s fascinating is, they have put in artificial crowd commotion to help generate enthusiasm within the arena.
What happens to the intensity if fans are not around?
Teams will face each other 8 or 9 times all through the regular season. Meaning, the playoff-like sequel will be there. For instance, the Rangers and the Devils have 4 consecutive games against each other in April. Since the adrenaline is not there without the enthusiasts, In the end, it may be there when the local pursuits have been restored. As the campaign ends, there won’t be anything to miss, the kinds of stuff known and adored about the league. The peeps and fights.