- The Montreal Canadiens are set to play in an empty arena when they arrive in San Jose, where officials are enforcing a ban on large gatherings to halt the spread of coronavirus.
- So far, no major events have been cancelled in Quebec.
The Montreal Canadiens are set to face the San Jose Sharks on Thursday, March 19 and it seems that there will be no fans to cheer for either team. Amid coronavirus fears, Santa Clara County in California, which includes San Jose, has banned public gatherings of over 1,000 people. Officials at the SAP Center, home of the Sharks, also announced that they will follow the government's regulations and will be "reviewing each scheduled event."
After the first recorded COVID-19 death in California and "in light of significantly increasing rates" of spread, country officials instituted a three-week ban on public gatherings while the local government awaits better testing methods.
"The strong measures we are taking today are designed to slow the spread of disease," said Dr. Sara Cody, Santa Clara County Health Officer. There are 21 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the county.
Three San Jose Sharks games will be affected by the ban, including the upcoming one with the Habs.
In Montreal, Evenko released its own statement on Monday, explaining that it has implemented "a number of precautionary and preventive measures to ensure our guests feel safe attending events in our facilities."
Visitors to the Bell Centre should be aware of the stringent hygiene measures that will be in place. If you feel symptoms, stay home!
This marks one of the first instances in North America of a major professional sports arena banning public gatherings.
In Europe and Asia, many arenas have shuttered their doors to fans. Images from these events are shocking and just a little creepy.
Japan's baseball season kicked off recently and the first preseason games were played to empty arenas. In Italy, the usually buzzing San Siro soccer stadium hosted an international match with no fans present.
Empty arenas have also been seen in a few NCAA basketball games in the U.S. The NCAA actually cancelled and postponed some March Madness games.
While there are (so far) no bans on public gatherings in Canada, officials outright cancelled the Women's World Hockey Championships in Nova Scotia.
Professional athletes from all major sports leagues in North America are skeptical of banning fans from events, claiming that they "wouldn't play" because it would be "too boring."
The Montreal Canadiens have already taken steps to safeguard their players by barring the media from post-game events.
Officials in Quebec, however, are taking a wait-and-see approach to the potential threat of the novel coronavirus.
The Habs' March 19 game against the San Jose Sharks will certainly look and sound bizarre without any fans in the stands.
MTL Blog will bring you all the updates if the virus starts to affect public gatherings in Montreal.