The Columbus Blue Jackets are the first NHL team to officially prohibit fans from attending games due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19). The team issued a statement on Wednesday saying that they are following an order from the Governor of Ohio and banning the public from attending home games at Nationwide Arena.
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine announced on Wednesday that the state of Ohio will be issuing a ban on mass gatherings, including sporting events. He later clarified that media members and team personnel will be still be permitted to attend, but the games will be closed off to the public.
The decision to ban mass gatherings in Ohio comes just days after the Governor declared a state of emergency in Ohio following news that three Ohioans have tested positive for the Coronavirus.
Here’s the full statement from the Blue Jackets following DeWine’s announcement.
“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.”
The first Blue Jackets game that will be played in an empty arena will be on Thursday, March 12th against the Pittsburgh Penguins. It’s unclear how long this ban will last and/or whether or not it will be in effect for the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The San Jose Sharks will also be playing home games in an empty arena this season. The team issued a statement on Wednesday following news that Santa Clara County has banned all large gatherings of more than 1,000 people due to rising rates of COVID-19.
Here’s the official statement from the San Jose Sharks.
“Sharks Sports & Entertainment is today announcing an update to events scheduled at SAP Center at San Jose through April 1, 2020.
“All three San Jose Sharks games (March 19 vs. Montreal, March 21 vs. Boston and March 29 vs. Arizona) will be played as scheduled at SAP Center but will be closed to the general public.
Admission to games will be limited to home and visiting club personnel, approved credentialed media and broadcast partners, essential club and arena staff, and NHL officials.
“All three Sharks games will be broadcast on television on NBC Sports California and via audio feed on the Sharks+SAP Center app, 98.5 FM KFOX and the Sharks Radio Network.
The same policy will apply for the San Jose Barracuda games scheduled for March 17 vs. Colorado and March 22 vs. Bakersfield.
“The ticketing department will work with ticket holders on appropriate credits or refunds for these affected games. Single-game buyers will receive a refund through their point of purchase. We will be communicating to ticket holders, partners and other affected parties with additional information soon.
“The safety of our fans, guests and partners is of the utmost importance. Sharks Sports & Entertainment and SAP Center management greatly appreciate your understanding during this unprecedented time.”
While the Blue Jackets and San Jose Sharks have closed off home games to the public, other NHL teams are likely to follow suit. The NBA officially suspended its season Wednesday after Utah Jazz Center, Rudy Gobert tested positive for the Coronavirus.