The Blackhawks Are the Only American NHL Team Left Without Fans in the Arena

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The Blackhawks Are the Only American NHL Team Left Without Fans in the Arena

Chicago Blackhawks

It’s been a daunting year+ for all of us when it comes to COVID-19. In our little corner of the world, it has been especially sucky not to be able to see the Bulls and Blackhawks in person, as both teams have shown glimpses of a brighter future (there are obviously many more serious concerns related to COVID-19, but you get the idea).

Instead, we’ve had to watch from afar. Around the NBA and NHL, some teams started the season with limited capacity in their home arenas and over the year, more teams have opened up. The MLB has had fans in attendance in limited capacity since the beginning of the season.

On Friday, the San Jose Sharks announced that they would be allowing fans back into games starting on April 26th. That leaves the United Center and the Chicago Blackhawks as the least US-based arena in the NHL without fans in attendance.

So why are the Bulls and Blackhawks last?

The Atheltic’s Mark Lazerus and Scott Powers wrote earlier this month that the City of Chicago was targeting a seven-day rolling average for COVID positivity rate of less than 5% for the possibility of fans being allowed back into games. It was down to 2.7% in early March, but has since gone back up over the 5% threshold. Around the same time as the city’s lowest seven-day rolling average of 2021, the Cubs and White Sox were announcing 20% fan capacity for games at Guaranteed Rate and Wrigley, but the United Center was still on hold (outdoor facilities obviously providing the different).

Later in March, just over two weeks ago, it appeared as if the United Center was preparing to welcome back fans…probably because there were “Welcome Back!” signs in the concourse.

But sometime in late-March, things stalled.

According to Powers and Lazerus, the United Center had submitted a reopening plan to the city with details on allowing fans and gamely employees back into the arena. They are now “awaiting feedback,” according to the report, but were also told that allowing fans back to the United Center is “not a priority at this time.”

Between now and the end of the regular season (May 10th), the Blackhawks have seven games remaining on the schedule to be played at the United Center. That game, against the Dallas Stars, will be the final game at the UC,  unless the Blackhawks make the Stanley Cup Playoffs, which, hey, they still have an outside-chance of doing.

But there’s not a lot of time for things to materialize for the United Center to welcome back the fans and employees before the end of the NHL and NBA regular seasons.

It’s been a shame that this entire season has had to be played without fans in the building in Chicago. We were unable to properly honor Brent Seabrook’s “retirement,” no fans were in the building to honor Patrick Kane’s 1,000th game or explode in a roar at his 400th goal. Fans and players alike want the arena atmosphere back and some have said that playing on the road has given them more of a jump from the crowd than just playing at your home arena does. Simulated crowd noise doesn’t do it justice.

I hope that fans can come back to the United Center before the season is over, but I understand the health concerns, as well. In the last two weeks, we’ve seen the Vancouver Canucks and now Colorado Avalanche have their teams and facilities shut down for extended periods of time, having to delay the end of the regular season. It makes it harder to envision fans coming back, even if we all want it to happen. That’s not my call, and people who have way more intellect on the subject know better than me, I’m sure. It hasn’t been the same this year and I hope we can get back there soon.

Author: Mario Tirabassi

Mario Tirabassi is a writer for Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @Mario_Tirabassi.