What it’s like to watch an NHL hockey game during the pandemic
When the coronavirus pandemic struck, sport was one of the first things to shut down. After a hiatus of several months, the NHL playoffs began in July and the league retreated into a Canadian bubble. For a large majority of the 2020-21 regular season, games were played without fans. But things are finally starting to open up again.
As someone who grew up on season tickets for most of my life, not going to a single hockey game for over a year was odd. Fortunately, being in New York for school gave me the opportunity to attend a Capitals game at the Nassau Coliseum against the New York Islanders on April 1. In March, the Islanders were allowed to fill the arena to 10% of its capacity (approximately 1,300 fans) for the games. Due to limited space, the Islanders have given their season ticket holders early access to games.
The only way for non-seasonal ticket holders to get tickets is to resell them, which drives up ticket prices. Right now, tickets for the upper levels of the arena cost around $ 300 per ticket.
Watching a game was exciting, but I was curious how different the experience would be and how safe I would feel with the COVID-19 protocols they put in place. So I recorded my experience at the Nassau Coliseum so that fans returning to Capital One Arena for Tuesday’s Capitals game have an idea of what things will look like.
COVID-19 procedures before entering the arena
The Islanders have numerous protocols in place to ensure fans entering the arena are not infected with COVID-19. This is done to ensure the safety of everyone in the building. Islanders have several options for fans to show proof of negative test results. The first option is to take a PCR test within 72 hours of match day. The Islanders have partnered with Northwell Health-GoHealth Urgent Care to make the process easier and more reliable for fans. The test can be scheduled using a link on the Islanders website. This is the test I received before going to the game and it was surprisingly easy. Some COVID-19 test centers can take a while even with an appointment, but when I received my test through Northwell Health, I was in and out within five minutes.
We like to have #He is fans back in the building! ??
As per New York State guidelines, as of April 1, rapid antigenic tests and vaccinations are now accepted at the Coliseum.
Be aware of the steps to take before match day ➡️ https://t.co/SjjEOHTK1G pic.twitter.com/JTYOBtsrX5
– New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) March 26, 2021
Other options for fans (especially those making last-minute decisions) are to take a quick test within six hours of playtime. You can get a quick at any COVID-19 test center. who offers them or on site at the Nassau Coliseum. The downside to getting tested on site is that each test will cost $ 25, but if you have health insurance you can get a quick test for free with any health care provider.
The last option for fans is to prove that they are fully vaccinated. To qualify, you must receive your last dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at least 14 days before the game.
Enter the arena
Once you’ve arrived at the arena, staff take you through a survey that asks if you’ve been in contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus. After completing the questionnaire, you receive a health card that you present to security.
On the way to Coli for tonight’s game?
Be sure to complete the health survey prior to entry in order to receive your #He is Health Pass! ??
Complete the health survey here: https://t.co/9rQ2tm2Fvg pic.twitter.com/BPyNWNSi1I
– New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) April 8, 2021
After presenting your health card as well as your negative COVID-19 test or vaccination card, you continued to go through security as usual to have your tickets scanned.
Inside the arena
In the hall of the Colosseum, the walkway was divided into two sides for people walking left and right.
They also didn’t have an open concession stand inside the arena. Instead, there were food trucks that were accessible once you got inside the arena. I thought it was a smart idea to help support local businesses while lowering the cost of each game.
Once you got to your headquarters, the groups were socially distant and placed at a safe distance from each other. One thing I noticed was that all of the seats the Islanders occupied for 10% capacity were strategically placed on the side of the arena in front of the TV cameras. This gives the illusion of a more full arena event with a capacity cap.
During the game, staff walked around to make sure everyone kept their masks on and remained seated in their seats.
To take with
Even though the game wasn’t much fun with an 8-4 loss and all, I felt very safe. While everyone is socially distant and wearing masks attended this game, it looked like the good old days before the pandemic.