In response to the coronavirus crisis, the San Jose Sharks are planning to play three home games this month before an empty SAP Center.
Adjustments to the Sharks’ plans, along with other SAP Center events through the end of March, became inevitable after Santa Clara County instituted a ban on mass gatherings of 1,000 people or more through the end of this month, announcing that policy Monday after the death of a county resident who had been diagnosed with COVID-19. On Wednesday, Sharks Sports & Entertainment revealed in a press release that the Sharks will play their three remaining home games this month on schedule, but that the contests will not be open to the general public.
The three contests affected by this measure include March 19 vs. Montreal, March 21 vs. Boston, and March 29 vs. Arizona. With this policy in place, only home and visiting club personnel, along with approved credentialed media and broadcast partners, essential club and arena staff, and NHL officials will be allowed into SAP Center for the games. All three games will still be broadcast on NBC Sports California and through audio feed on the Sharks+SAP Center app, 98.5 FM KFOX and the Sharks Radio Network.
The Sharks are not the only professional hockey team at the arena to undertake this measure. Minor-league hockey’s San Jose Barracuda (AHL), who also play at SAP Center, will host home games on March 17 and March 22 before an empty arena.
“The safety of our fans, guests and partners is of the utmost importance,” said the press statement. “Sharks Sports & Entertainment and SAP Center management greatly appreciate your understanding during this unprecedented time.”
It should be noted that the Sharks are not the only NHL team planning to play at least one home game before an empty arena. The Columbus Blue Jackets will not allow fans into Nationwide Arena for their contest Thursday against the Pittsburgh Penguins, a decision announced Wednesday to comply with a forthcoming ban on mass gatherings in Ohio.
With the NBA suspending its season until further notice after announcing Wednesday that a player on the Utah Jazz–identified in other press reports as Rudy Gobert–preliminarily tested positive for COVID-19, the NHL is expected to provide an update on its season Thursday.
“The National Hockey League is aware of the NBA’s decision tonight to indefinitely suspend its season due to a player testing positive for the coronavirus,” read a league statement issued Wednesday. “The NHL is continuing to consult with medical experts and is evaluating the options. We expect to have a further update tomorrow.”
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