The NHL was the first indoor sports organization to begin their season in 2021, and with that has come a lot of controversy when it comes to in-person attendance in the wake of the pandemic.
While teams across the board are making different attendance rules based on their state’s regulation, it is no surprise that California still has become one of the last states to allow fans to attend while the Florida Panthers have already jumped to 25 percent capacity. However, one of the weirdest turn of events regarding in-person attendance includes the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Pittsburgh Penguins decided to allow a limited capacity of 2,800 fans into their arena under the condition that they all wear masks unless they are actively eating or drinking. Apparently all 2,800 patrons did not abide by these rules, so the Penguins took matters into their own hands.
One of the Penguin’s social media staffers decided that the best course of action would be to photoshop masks onto patrons before posting to the team’s various social media platforms. This trick was noticed by social media users and the Penguins faced some minor backlash for attempting to deceive the public and have since stated that the staffer will be reprimanded. Seventeen people were ejected from that game for refusing to obey the mask-wearing policy.
While this punishment was light and the impact of 17 fans not wearing masks is debatable, it is important to see how these decisions on policies can affect how fans will view indoor events for the foreseeable future. If fans continue to break these rules, then stadiums may stop allowing in-person events indefinitely. While some may assume this just affects hockey fans, that could not be further from the truth. Many hockey areas are multifunction facilities where NBA games, concerts and other types of performances are held. NHL and NBA fans are the guinea pigs to see how indoor events will be viewed and in these next few months the responsibility lays in the hands of these fans to obey the rules no matter their personal opinion.
The NHL is about ¾ of the way through their regular season, and there have been some updates regarding who can and cannot attend their favorite teams’ games. California has recently allowed limited capacity attendance for their home games along with Colorado. The Minnesota Wild have also decided to start allowing fans again with the Buffalo Sabers. Currently no Canadian NHL team has a plan to start re-allowing fans and the Washington Capitals are also holding out on in-person attendance. The Las Vegas Golden Knights have even been discussing a “proof of vaccination” in order to attend games so that they can increase their capacity.
The NHL has not released any statement about their plans for in-person attendance next season but no doubt it will be more difficult than allowing fans at baseball and football games due to hockey games being played solely indoors.