BOSTON (CBS) — On Monday, Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron said it would be tough for him to play in front of an empty stadium. That may become a reality for Bergeron and his Bruins teammates next weekend in San Jose, as the U.S. takes steps to contain coronavirus.
The NHL, NBA, MLB and MLS are all closing access to locker rooms and clubhouses to non-essential personnel in response to the coronavirus crisis, and that will likely just be the beginning. Those leagues may soon follow the lead of European leagues, which have either postponed seasons or opted to play with no fans in the stands.
Following the first coronavirus-related death in the county, Santa Clara officials announced Monday that there will be a three-week ban on meetings of people of 1,000 or more. That includes home games for the San Jose Sharks at the SAP Center, with the team and NHL now weighing all options for the next three weeks.
NHL is aware of the Santa Clara County ban on large gatherings. They are looking at all options, which are the following, in no particular order:
1. Play to empty building
2. Neutral site
3. Play in Visitors building
4. Postpone and reschedule
— John Shannon (@JShannonhl) March 10, 2020
The Sharks have three home games over that period (the ban goes into effect at midnight on Wednesday), including a visit from the Boston Bruins on March 21. Playing that game with no fans in attendance is just one of the options the NHL is weighing, which also includes playing the game at a neutral site or potentially in Boston.
While they’d ultimately be OK with the NHL taking necessary precautions, Bergeron said he and his teammates would find it pretty difficult to play without 18,000+ fans watching.
“That would be tough,” Bergeron said Monday at the prospect of playing in an empty stadium. “We’re playing for ourselves and the love of the game, obviously, but the atmosphere, the energy, [fans are] the ones who create that. It would be a big void. It would be tough, really tough.”
It will be interesting to see what the NHL decides with the Sharks, especially with the NHL playoffs less than a month away.