SAN JOSE (CBS SF) — The San Jose Sharks were still scrambling Tuesday to determine if they will be forced to play their next three home games in an empty SAP Center rink in the wake of a Santa Clara County order prohibiting gathering of over 1,000 people until the end of the month in the face of a growing coronavirus outbreak.
Santa Clara County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody set the number of cases within the county at 43 with 21 of those cases were likely spread through community transmission. The county has also had one death — a 60-year-old woman.
On Monday night, county officials issued the order banning large crowds at events until March 29.
Jim Sparaco, Director of Public Relations for the SAP Center, where the Sharks play, released a statement Monday night.
“SAP Center at San Jose is aware of the County of Santa Clara’s Public Health Department order to prohibit public and private mass gatherings through the end of March,” he said. “We will adhere to the mandated guidelines. No events are scheduled at SAP Center until Tues., March 17. We will be reviewing each scheduled event due to take place for the rest of the month and provide an update in the coming days. We appreciate the understanding and patience of our fans, guests and partners during this unprecedented time.”
The Sharks aren’t the only team with upcoming games impacted by the local ban. Major League Soccer’s San Jose Earthquakes are determining what to do with their home game March 21 and Stanford is figuring out how to proceed with events scheduled on campus, including the NCAA women’s’ basketball tournament.
The Earthquakes have one home game scheduled this month on March 21 against Sporting Kansas City. There also is an exhibition at Avaya Stadium scheduled for March 28 between Mexican clubs Chivas Guadalajara and Club Leon.
The BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells in Southern California that was supposed to start this week has already been canceled and the Ivy League called off its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments scheduled for the end of this week.
“I don’t stand here and profess to know the answer to what’s right and what’s wrong,” Sharks interim coach Bob Boughner said. “If what they’re saying (is) we can’t play in front of crowds, then we’ll have to deal with it. Nothing is confirmed on the Sharks end to what the options would be, but as a coach you try to keep your players focused.”
At the team skate around Tuesday, players reacted to the possibility of an empty arena for games against Montreal, Boston and Phoenix.
“It will definitely be a weird feeling if that happens,” veteran Joe Thornton said of the threat of an empty arena. “What’s going in right now is weird for everybody. We’re all confused like you guys (reporters) are. I see Italian soccer teams are doing the no fans thing so I’m not sure what we’ll have planned right now. We’re going on road for a week so we will know more when we get back.”
Sharks forward Timo Meier said he saw word of the county’s announcement on social media Monday night.
“I saw it on Twitter,” he said. “We love playing in front of our fans so it’s definitely shocking news. We are all aware of the situation and what’s going on around the world. Where I’m from in Switzerland they have the same problem.”
“Like I said we always like playing in front of our fans, they are great to us. We also know that health comes first,” he added. “We are here to just do our job. We love playing hockey.”
Meier said he was confident the right decision will be made by the team returns home for its road trip.
“We’ll see how it develops,” he said. “We give it some time, let the people higher up discuss that.”
Evander Kane also was trying to grasp what playing in front of an empty arena would be like.
“I’ve never been in the NHL when we played a game without any fans,” he said. “It would definitely be very different. I know they have announced a couple different scenarios (empty arenas, moving games to another city). I think we are all just waiting to find out to see what actually happens so obviously the empty building is one of them.”
“It would be very strange to play in an empty building, that’s for sure.”