By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
After much deliberation in attempt to prevent a full-on outbreak of the coronavirus, next Saturday's meeting between the Boston Bruins and San Jose Sharks at the SAP Center will go on as scheduled. But it will not come with any fans in the stands, as the SAP Center has officially closed the arena to the general public through the rest of March.
This is a slight change from the original plan (which seemed to hint at limited attendance in the arena) and is more in line with what the Golden State Warriors have decided to do for their upcoming game with the Brooklyn Nets in San Francisco, which will come with no fans in attendance. (And The Bay area, for what it's worth, has seemingly been among the more proactive regions in terms of trying to attempt to stop this pandemic from worsening in their respective cities.)
But Santa Clara county's suggestion and the Sharks' decision is really just the start of what's become a country-wide attempt to prevent an overflowing breakout that would cripple and potentially crumble the medical industry's ability to properly treat everybody in a timely and effective manner. And it's one that's picking up steam in the National Hockey League.
In Columbus, the Blue Jackets originally announced that they would welcome all fans to the arena despite Ohio governor Mike DeWine's recommendation to cancel or close all upcoming mass gatherings. But the organization backed off and have since closed their upcoming home games to the public and non-essential personnel after the governor suggested that orders would be put in place if they tried to defy his suggestion. Raleigh's PNC Arena, on the other hand, has decided to keep their doors open for all Hurricane games and events at the arena, and have yet to back off on that stance or outright offer refunds to those unable or unwilling to attend events. Philadelphia city officials urged people not to attend mass gatherings as recently as this past Tuesday, but that didn't stop over 19,000 from cramming into the Wells Fargo Center to watch a Bruins-Flyers matchup later that night.
In the now, you're seeing a whole lot of arenas and teams noting that they are 'monitoring' the situation, but outcomes like the one in Columbus and San Jose seem almost inevitable at this point, especially after the NCAA decided that their iconic (and massive money-making) March Madness tournament was to go on without the crowds its famous for.
TD Garden, meanwhile, has yet to release any official statement in regards to their approach to handling any upcoming home games scheduled, beginning with Saturday's scheduled game between the Bruins and Maple Leafs. (The Bruins have, however, postponed their Mar. 24 ceremony honoring the 50th anniversary of the 1970 team, citing health concerns for those traveling.)
While the general public will be prohibited from attending these games, it is worth noting that broadcast teams, media, and essential personnel will all be permitted in the building. This decision comes on the heels of the NHL implementing a new coronavirus-sparked policy that's banned media from their normal locker room access, with all availability featuring a podium-styled approach, and with the media and athletes having a healthy separation of about to six to eight feet.
The Black and Gold's upcoming trip to San Jose will be the final game of a three-game California swing that begins with stops in Anaheim and Los Angeles. Neither the Honda Center nor Staples Center have laid out their plans for those games just yet.