Sharks may play in empty arena due to coronavirus-related bans
Santa Clara County is implementing a mandatory three-week ban on all large gatherings beginning Wednesday due to the coronavirus, County Counsel James Williams said Monday, according to Maggie Angst of The Mercury News.
The ban applies to events with more than 1,000 attendees, which includes San Jose Sharks games and other events at the SAP Center. The Sharks may continue playing without fans present, officials added, according to Tatiana Sanchez of The San Francisco Chronicle.
The Sharks released an official statement Monday night:
"SAP Center at San Jose is aware of the County of Santa Clara’s Public Health Department order to prohibit public and private mass gatherings through the end of March. We will adhere to the mandated guidelines. No events are scheduled at SAP Center until Tues., March 17. We will be reviewing each scheduled event due to take place for the rest of the month and provide an update in the coming days. We appreciate the understanding and patience of our fans, guests and partners during this unprecedented time."
If the Sharks decide not to play games in an empty SAP Center, they could play at a neutral site, or postpone and reschedule the games, TSN's Frank Seravalli added.
Santa Clara County announced its first coronavirus-related death on Monday. It's the second death in the state of California due to the disease. Santa Clara County has 43 reported cases of the coronavirus.
The Sharks' next home game isn't until Wednesday, March 19, against the Montreal Canadiens. Additional games affected by the ban include March 21 against the Boston Bruins and March 29 versus the Arizona Coyotes.
Italy, Europe's most affected country by the coronavirus with over 460 deaths and 9,000 confirmed cases, suspended all sporting events for the remainder of the month. Serie A soccer games had previously been played with no fans in attendance. While the NBA has reportedly prepared to play games without fans, the Sharks would be the first major professional sports team in North America to take such extreme measures.