It’s been over 6 months since the last NHL game with fans present. “When can we see games in person again?” every sports fan is currently asking…
Certain NFL teams are allowing a small percentage of fans into the stadium to sit socially distant. Hockey, though, is significantly harder to have fans than a sport such as football or baseball. Hockey and basketball take place indoors, which means there is less open-air ventilation.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said he wants a full 82-game regular season for 2020-2021, with a normal 16 team playoffs. Bettman would also like to start next season by December 1st but understands there is a strong possibility it will be pushed back. Realistically, I see a January 1st start date.
The start date isn’t what’s in question, however. The big question is- will there be fans? Bettman and the NHL plan to start next season with zero fans- whether it’s in a bubble or not (most likely not). They will then gradually add in a small percentage of fans as restrictions ease. Bettman says the no fans policy affects around 50% of league-wide revenue… so you know the NHL is going to do everything in their power to get fans back in seats.
Personally, I think it’s very possible to have fans by February-March 2021 in some capacity. It may be 25% capacity- which for the Nassau Coliseum is only about 3,500 fans. Fans will also be required to wear a mask for the entire game.