Proactive vaccine and mask requirements for fans could help Kraken avoid attendance limitations
Inside the NHL
For Kraken CEO Tod Leiweke, Monday already seemed like the end of a long week as he sat at an employee holiday lunch at socially distant tables in the team’s training center.
Leiweke was waiting for defenseman Adam Larsson to actually test positive for COVID-19, but still had hopes that the Kraken’s game the next night against the Arizona Coyotes would be played. This does not happen.
In fact, the NHL opted to shut down for the holidays two days earlier and even then couldn’t go through Tuesday’s final two games unscathed, as the Washington Capitals game against the Philadelphia Flyers took a toll. been postponed. The plan is to return to games on Monday, and the Kraken are hoping that will be the worst.
They especially hope that we will not return to closed or reduced capacity gyms. So far, this is not offered, not least because the Kraken has taken proactive steps to require full vaccination and the wearing of a mask by fans.
âI am really proud of our fans,â said Leiweke. âOverall they did a great job playing by the rules.
There have been reports, usually from fans taking cell phone photos and videos at the Climate Pledge Arena, that not all fans abide by the mask rules. Part of the problem with keeping sports venues and their income-generating concessions open is that everyone is dropping face masks to eat and drink.
And some will try to extend this privilege well beyond consumption. Still, the Kraken at least try to impose and maintain such rules, which is more than a number of NHL teams.
Go to the Gila River Arena in Arizona, where the Coyotes play, and there are no requirements for vaccinations or a negative COVID-19 test, and the masks are treated as something to wear on Halloween.
To date, more than 170,000 people have downloaded the Clear Health Pass smartphone app used to expedite proof of vaccination when signing up for Climate Pledge. The team estimates that 70-80% of fans attending NHL games use the app, compared to 60-70% of spectators.
âWe asked a lot of our fans, and they responded,â said Leiweke.
Gov. Jay Inslee’s office spokesperson Tara Lee said there are currently no plans to revert to crowd restrictions. A big reason, she said, is that “we’re in a really different place” with vaccines, and Climate Pledge fans are at less risk of serious illness.
âYou have to give the Kraken credit,â Lee said. âYou know, at first they demanded that everyone be vaccinated. They certainly did a lot of signage and requirementsâ¦ by bringing spectators into the building, they did a good job.
But the NHL isn’t just about this city. And the Kraken still faces challenges.
On the one hand, as with other NHL teams, they must find a way to contain the spread of the coronavirus and its new omicron variant in their locker room.
Rather than sticking its head in the sand – as the NFL has done by refusing to test asymptomatic vaccinated players and thus increasing the risk of spread in the communities in which its teams play – the NHL has done what ‘it was necessary by suspending the season. He is also expected to back down and not send players to the Beijing Winter Olympics. Once that happens, Kraken GM Ron Francis will step down from his leadership role with the arrival of Team Canada.
Speaking of Canada, that’s another issue, as various governments there have generally taken a much stricter approach to containing the pandemic than those in this country. And Canada has seven NHL teams, so what’s going on there affects the whole league, especially with cross-border play.
The capacities of the arenas of the seven Canadian teams have been reduced.
The mayor of Montreal declared a state of emergency on Tuesday, a day after the province of Quebec closed schools, bars, gymnasiums and cinemas while limiting restaurants to 50% of their capacity in response to the increase in the number of cases. The Canadiens hockey team had to resume playing in front of a fan at home last week.
The Toronto Maple Leafs, Ottawa Senators, Winnipeg Jets, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks have all had their abilities reduced to 50% by the respective provincial governments.
And there is always the imminent specter of another border closure. Since the start of this pandemic, Canada’s federal government has not had the most generous view of sports teams coming into the country from areas of the United States where the pandemic is not taken so seriously.
Even vaccinated players can still catch and transmit the coronavirus, as we have seen repeatedly in the Kraken and other NHL teams. And it is easier to catch the virus in places where it is rife, even in asymptomatic carriers.
That’s why the NFL didn’t help anyone’s cause much last week by announcing their asymptomatic no-tests plan. Players with simple sniffles or no symptoms can still spread the virus in communities and harm others.
This is exactly the sort of thing the Canadian government will take note of if the NHL needs special favors in the event of new border restrictions. There has been a small push in some NHL circles to take the NFL path and forgo testing asymptomatic players, with Detroit Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman among the fans.
But the NHL is unlikely to follow the NFL, in large part because Canadian officials would likely oppose it, even if officials in this country turn a blind eye.
The NHL will therefore have to resolve the problem of player infections without ignoring it.
She has already started by closing her ranks. A league memo to players and teams last week included a line suggesting they had been lax on safety. “Please remember that federal law requires masks to be worn on charter flights,” the note said. “We have heard some concerns expressed by charter airlines about the clubs’ failure to comply with this requirement.”
Of course, we are all tired of the pandemic restrictions. But with more than 1,400 people still dying every day from coronavirus causes in this country, this whole story of mask weariness lacks weight in a serious argument.
And that applies to Climate Pledge fans as well as private plane players.
Leiweke said the team took a less confrontational approach with fans, thanking them for keeping the masks on during arena messages rather than berating them.
âThey are our fans, and we want to keep them,â he said. âSo we try to say it in a positive way and reinforce good behavior. “
This behavior has been good enough to keep the arena open for the time being. And those who wish it to stay that way should continue to strap on those masks, remembering that professional sport during a deadly pandemic remains a luxury, not a privilege.