The Boston Bruins and New York Islanders will play in an empty Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York on Thursday night but the next time they meet, on March 23 at TD Garden in Boston, Bruins fans will be back in the building for the first time since March 7, 2020.
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker confirmed Thursday afternoon that starting on March 22, the state’sReopen Plan’ will move to Step 4 of Phase 1 and that means that TD Garden, Fenway Park, and Gillette Stadium can operate at 12 percent of their normal capacity.
“These large venues employ a lot of people and many of them have been out of work for a very long time,” Baker said in a press conference Thursday. “We’ve been watching how these venues perform in other states and believe with the right safety measures in place they can operate responsibly and safely here in the Commonwealth as well.”
This means that for now, just 2,349 Bruins fans will be allowed in for that tilt with the Islanders next month. and going forward. After playing in front of no fans for their first five home games at TD Garden and potentially another five by March 23, any amount of fans will be a welcome sight for the Boston Bruins players. Even though the Bruins will actually play in front of NHL fans for the first time this season at Madison Square Garden Friday and Saturday for a two-game set against the New York Rangers.
“I’m just happy to not be playing in front of real fans and not the cardboard cut-out fans like we will be tonight,” defenseman Connor Clifton said prior to the official announcement from Baker Thursday. “It’s been a while. We’re obviously really excited to get back to TD Garden and play in front of the Bruins fans. It’s obviously a big part of the NHL and the atmosphere. Hopefully, we get back there soon.”
On Wednesday, the idea of having fans again was brought up to Boston Bruins forward Sean Kuraly during his weekly appearance on WEEI.
“It’s huge. So excited, honestly,” Kuraly said. “I think it’s only 1,500 or 2,000, but I think we’ve all got that circled. Some of us were talking about that at breakfast this morning, that we’ve had that circled on the calendar. We even got a text about possibly having friends or family — actually, it had to be family — come to the game, so that was a nice text to send some family. Obviously, it’s the first time in almost a year.”
The Boston Bruins, the city of Boston, the state, and the NHL have been working tirelessly to enable fans to return to TD Garden and home Bruins games and were thrilled at the good news from the Governor on Thursday.
“An incredible amount of work and collaboration has taken place over the past year in preparation for the return of fans to TD Garden,” Bruins Team President Cam Neely said in a statement. “We are beyond excited to welcome back the best fans in hockey to TD Garden as their energy and enthusiasm have been greatly missed.”
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) February 25, 2021
TD Garden President Amy Latimer stressed that the arena has strict COVID Protocol in place and the safety of the fans will be a top priority.
“We have been working diligently with public health officials and experts for nearly a year to create the highest standards of guidelines and protocols to keep everyone as safe as possible at TD Garden,” Latimer said. “Using these new Play It Safe protocols, following updated guidelines from the CDC, and implementing the GBAC Star arena cleaning standards, we take the reopening of TD Garden very seriously and are committed to the health and safety of our fans while providing a great guest experience.”
At #TDGarden, we ‘Play It Safe’ to protect the health and well-being of all who visit. We’ve worked with the experts on new policies and guidelines that will be in place for your next visit.
— TD Garden (@tdgarden) February 25, 2021