Two days ago, Santa Clara County (and other surrounding counties) banned all contact sports from holding games and practices in the area for the next three weeks starting on November 30th. This holds concern regarding the possibility of the San Jose Sharks being able to play in their home arena for their upcoming season, something that could likely impact them majorly.
For those who don’t know, Santa Clara County covers towns from Palo Alto all the way to a tiny place entitled Gilroy. Unfortunately, this includes San Jose. Though these restrictions have only been put in place for three weeks, with American Thanksgiving being one of the busiest travel days and Christmas and New Years’ shortly following this, it is likely that this lockdown on sports could be extended into January. This could come dangerously close to a hypothesized February 1st start date for the return of the NHL.
Yes, you may be wondering how one could speculate two months ahead of time whether or not the Sharks will have to up-end their current plan and play somewhere else. However, it is indisputable that this is a possibility, and when it comes to our beloved Sharks, one cannot be too careful.
Let’s see how other teams are reacting to this lockdown, in order to speculate what our Sharks will do.
Other Pro-Sports League Reactions
Looking to the Golden State Warriors and their preparations were of no considerable help. Their first preseason game is scheduled for Saturday, December 12 at the Chase Stadium in San Francisco. They have not stated any different plans. Though they are technically in the clear, it is surprising that the organization has not made any comments about the possible restriction that could spread to their county as well.
The San Francisco 49ers are one of the teams also affected by this new restriction. (from ’49ers heading to Arizona after Santa Clara County’s COVID ban on games, practices,’ Mercury News, 11/30/2020) This team is planning to head into Glendale, Arizona to play their home games during the restriction. They have two games scheduled and will be playing them in the Arizona Cardinals’ stadium. Though they have yet to announce whether or not they will move practices and essentially their whole operations, it is likely that they will be headed to Arizona sooner, rather than later.
The NFL as a whole shut down all team facilities for in-person activities for November 30th and December 1st following the Thanksgiving weekend. One can expect that this past Thanksgiving weekend will tell the tale with the virus, and depending on how it spikes, may influence the Sharks’ return.
Sharks Reaction to Restrictions
Now for the Sharks. They responded quickly to this announcement maintaining that it was too soon to be able to know how it would impact them. (from ‘Santa Clara County exec expects contact sports ban to last into 2021, potentially forcing San Jose Sharks to leave,’ Mercury News, 11/30/2020)
However, it is likely that this will move both the Sharks and the farm team, the San Jose Barracuda outside of their home county. Discussions to move the training camp location, which was to tentatively start in mid-December, are already underway. Currently, Sharks players have been using their practice facility to skate and train around two to three times a week.
Though they have been following protocols, they will have to either modify their practice or pause these operations completely to comply with health orders. This is concerning for the Sharks. Without taking part in the extended postseason during the summer, the Sharks have not hit the ice together since their last game on March 11, 2020. Though the NHL decided that teams who did not take part in the expanded 2020 postseason would get an extra week at training camp, here’s to hoping that is enough for the Sharks.
Implications of Moving for the Sharks
After the Sharks’ previous 2019-20 year with their surplus of injuries, combined with not having played an NHL game for possibly eleven months, this coming season will be weird enough as it is. The last thing the team needs is to play their home games in another place. Fans want their Sharks in the Shark Tank.
It will be significantly more difficult to regain their footing without having the advantage of playing in an arena they know, in the city they love. Though it is understandable why this may be difficult, if this team has to play their first games in an undecided location for an already shortened season, there is no saying what this will do for a team trying to recover.
Not playing at home can’t help a team trying for a rebound season, and these new restrictions create uncertainty surrounding the likelihood of playing in San Jose.
Sydney Hillis is currently studying Professional Communications at Ryerson University in Toronto (and no Grandpa Frank, that doesn’t mean just learning how to talk). An avid San Jose Sharks fan (through all the trials and tribulations) Sydney is a Sharks journalist for The Hockey Writers. Despite never having visited San Jose, the love is sincere.