It has felt like the longest season for NHL players in Canada, as the pandemic has prevented any fans from coming to watch the games. Canada’s strict regulations mean that the Canadian NHL teams were playing in stadiums where you could hear a pin drop. Not a soul in sight. It has been 61 games since a fan was seen inside the stadium and the NHL players can’t wait for their fans to be back amongst the stands yet again.
Fans were slowly allowed back into the stadiums in May 2020, with an allowance of 2,500 seats given for the Montreal vs Toronto fixture. These numbers were slowly boosted again to 3,500 as fans rushed to try and claim their Stanley Cup tickets where Montreal were soundly beaten by the Tampa Bay Lightning. While a disappointing night for Canadian hockey fans, it was still a glimmer of hope as the matches began to feel the energy again that they once had. Montreal Canadiens center Nick Suzuki described playing in front of an empty stadium as “numbing” as he was one of the first players to mention just how excited he was by the prospect of playing in front of full home crowds again.
In place of 20,000 screaming fans, NHL players have had to become accustomed to an artificial crowd noise that would blare throughout the stadium. Players are not only excited by the prospect of full stadiums again but also to be rid of the artificial atmosphere as well. Players have claimed there really is no substitute for the real thing, as they look forward to the warm and exciting atmosphere of a fully packed crowd at NHL matches again.
The restrictions on Canadian NHL teams are still very much in play but the stadiums are now able to take in as much as 33% of their capacity. This makes for an already stark difference to the 2,500 of the previous season. Things are looking up for NHL Canada as the league returns to at least some kind of normalcy again.