The NFL announced the start of its season in September. How they handle fans at their games will dictate the course the NHL takes.
The NFL plans on not allowing the COVID-19 Pandemic to delay its regular season. At all. They plan on playing a full season with a full playoff run this year. The question becomes if and when they will allow fans, how they will handle it. The NHL could be taking notes to replicate any success or failure.
We already know for the most part that whatever becomes of the 19-20 season, if it is completed will be done so without fans in attendance. However, most governors, including Tom Dundon, want to make sure that the 20-21 season has fans in attendance and a sense of normalcy returned.
A delayed start to the 20-21 season could bear the fruit of learning from someone else’s mistakes.
With a planned start in September as scheduled, the NFL could be faced with the various regulations that different states have imposed. Peter King of NBC Sports reports that he sees the league advising anyone over the age of 70 to avoid going to the game and even ban the sales of alcohol, to avoid lines to the bathroom where congestion may happen.
While that seems like bandaids on a bigger problem, the more interesting notes from his report stem from which teams may be hosting fans, such as The Buccaneers and Falcons, Both in ‘reopened’ states while other such as The 49rs, Rams, and Chargers of California may be forced to play in empty arenas.
This opens up a whole new can of worms of course. With teams traveling across the nation consistently to play on the opposite coast. But luckily for the NFL, the fans are pretty far from the field and the players. That could mean the end of the Lambeau Leap, but I think we can be okay without doing it for a few years.
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But if this works for the NFL, could the NHL consider not seating fans in the first few seats to give the players on the ice more protection than the glass? Could the NHL also consider fans in some arenas and no fans in others?
Chances are that the NHL will wait a bit to see the results from the NFL. It will either be a successful opportunity to move past the pandemic or a disastrous failure that may place many people in jeopardy.
Both leagues use revenue sharing and having fan revenue in one place and not the other can go a long way towards making up some of the money and perhaps avoiding a drop in the salary cap.
It would also mean a possibility of sellouts every game every night regardless of where, as fans in cities without fans allowed clamor to see their teams play in cities that have the gates open. This could mean more income for those teams and result in all sorts of lobbying by the other teams for their leadership to allow fans.
But let’s not get too muddled into the politics of it all. The NFL could be taking a risk that the NHL could learn from. It could also not allow fans at all if they deem it to be unsafe. At that point, the NHL will have to ask itself if it is willing to be the trailblazer itself or instead take the NFL’s lead and keep fans out for another season.
Only time will tell.
Question for CC Readers: Do you think the NFL will allow fans? Should the NHL?