Excitement And Caution Surround The St. Louis Blues Pandemic-Delayed Return
The St. Louis Blues begin another pandemic-shortened season Wednesday night in Denver.
Most National Hockey League teams are returning to the ice and their home arenas this week, after completing the 2020 season last year in bubble environments in two Canadian cities.
The new season comes with the U.S. and Canada still in the grips of COVID-19, which is raising safety concerns. But some fans are still excited about hockey’s return.
“It’s worth a shot,” said Curt Price, who cohosts Let’s Go Blues Radio, a podcast devoted to the team.
“Maybe it’s just being a little selfish of a fan. But none of the players have opted out in the league — or for the Blues anyway — so I think they’re all on board,” Price said.
The NHL says it's worth having a season, but the league is already dealing with issues.
The start of the season for the Dallas Stars is delayed until at least Jan. 19 after an outbreak within the team.
The San Jose Sharks will have to play on the road until February at the earliest because of pandemic restrictions in California. The team will meet with state health officials to determine if it will be able to eventually play at home this season.
And the league is well aware that playing in mostly empty arenas will hurt the bottom line.
Commissioner Gary Bettman said this week the NHL will lose more than $1 billion this season.
ESPN reports Bettman told national reporters the owners are on board with the finances because they regard playing this year as important to players and fans. They say it could give some a distraction from the pandemic.
The Blues are taking steps to keep some connections with supporters during another pandemic-affected season.
The team is allowing a limited number of fans in the stands starting with the first game at Enterprise Center against San Jose on Monday. It is identifying some front-line health care workers and public safety personnel who will be allowed in the seats for home games this month.
They will be placed in what the Blues describe as “socially distanced seating pods” inside the building.
And following the lead of other professional teams, including the Cardinals, the Blues are selling cardboard cutouts that will be placed in seats around Enterprise Center. They have a $74 price tag, with some of the money going to the team’s Blues for Kids nonprofit.
Blues fan Laura Astorian is considering going the cardboard cutout route for games this year. She grew up in Granite City but now lives in Atlanta.
She still follows the Blues and is a little apprehensive about the season getting underway.
“I hope it works,” she said.
“So far, they’ve been the professional league that’s taken this the most seriously,” added Astorian, who is the editor of the Blues fan website stlouisgametime.com
She’s thought that maybe the NHL should not return until the pandemic is over but admits that it will nice to have little return to normalcy,
The Blues and the rest of the teams are slated to play a 56-game schedule. Usually, a regular season has 82 games.
But as the NHL and people in all walks of life will admit, nothing is regular about life in a pandemic.