After both Coronavirus Task Force Advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci and NHL Commissioner expressed optimism that professional sports and NHL hockey could return this summer at neutral sites and with no fans in stands, Boston Bruins forward Charlie Coyle expressed optimism about the 2019-20 NHL season – that was paused on March 12 due to the Coronavirus – being salvaged but admitted it wouldn’t be the same without the fans.
“We’ve thought about that and talked about it with whoever, teammates, friends, parents or whoever. It’s very bizarre to think about playing a very meaningful game with no fans in there,” Coyle acknowledged in Zoom meeting with the media Wednesday. “It’s almost like a practice atmosphere, you know? I don’t know. I don’t know what it would be like. I’ve never played an NHL game where there was nobody there, so it would be a new experience if that’s what it comes down to.”
In an interview on Snapchat Tuesday, Fauci said he does believe sports can return as soon as the summer but there absolutely need to be no fans and strict safety guidelines enforced and followed.
“There’s a way of doing that,” Fauci said. “Nobody comes to the stadium. Put [the players] in big hotels, wherever you want to play, keep them very well surveilled. … Have them tested every single week and make sure they don’t wind up infecting each other or their family and just let them play the season out.”
Bettman echoed Fauci’s sentiments and stressed the importance of feasible and strict safety guidelines being in place. With the NHL having not just players from the United States and Canada a large contingent of European players who would have to return from overseas, the potential for COVID19 spreading from a return to the ice would be very real. Bettman knows preventing such an outbreak would be of the utmost importance.
“Before we can begin as a business standpoint, we have to be comfortable that we have the appropriate medical protocols in place because we’re going to have to have our players travel from virtually all over the world,” Bettman told Fox Business News Wednesday.
“When we decide it’s time to play, we have to be able to get everybody back and be comfortable that not only are we not infecting the population of players but that were not bringing the coronavirus from other places into jurisdictions where the players and other personnel are going.”
Coyle agreed but stressed to reporters just how much the fans would be missed at what customarily is the loudest and craziest time of the year.
“If that’s what we have to do,” Coyle said. “The perfect scenario would be to have our fans there cheering us on because we love playing in front of these guys. They bring so much to our game and to our team. Just the atmosphere of it all, especially at playoff time. There is nothing like it. It wouldn’t be the same at all.
I hope things can work out and we can get this thing figured out and everybody can get back to normal and living their normal lives — going to sporting events, big events and big crowds. If [playing to empty arenas is] what it comes down to then we’ll adjust accordingly, but we’ll definitely miss [the fans] and we’ll lose a part of our atmosphere and our team.”