SAN JOSE (CBS SF) — The San Jose Sharks announced Wednesday that due to the concern over the coronavirus spread, games at the SAP Center would be played without fans in attendance.
The announcement by the team’s ownership group, Sharks Sports & Entertainment, follows a decision by Santa Clara County health officials prohibiting gatherings of more than 1,000 people in the county.
The team indicated the next three Sharks home games – March 19 vs. Montreal, March 21 vs. Boston and March 29 vs. Arizona – would be played as scheduled at SAP Center but will be closed to the general public.
The Sharks also said its AHL farm team, the San Jose Barracuda, would also play it March 17 and March 22 games without fans.
The team would be contacting ticket holders to credit or refund them for the affected games. Single-game buyers can get a refund through their point of purchase, according to the team.
Aside from players, coaches and team personnel, the only other people allowed to attend would be credentialed media and broadcast partners, essential club and arena staff, and NHL officials.
“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 of the possibility of playing in front of an empty SAP Center. “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.”
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.”