Hockey arenas in the U.S. begin opening up

A sign of normal life from the hockey world.

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Things are very different right now, there’s no two ways about it. But when things go back to normal, what will “normal” look like? 

COVID-19 has impacted everyone’s lives. We’re all making temporary changes to help flatten the curve and get through this pandemic. When restrictions lift and people go back to their normal lives, what sort of permanent changes will we be forced to embrace? 

From a hockey perspective, what sort of policies will the NHL be forced to implement? Will attendance be restricted? Will social distancing be enforced? Outside the NHL, what will our local rinks look like? When can kids get back on the ice?

Well, one encouraging trend we’re seeing across the United States is the re-opening of some local arenas as covered in a recent story by The Hockey News’ Ken Campbell.

As the U.S. economy begins a slow re-opening privately owned rinks are now free to open their doors. “We have to either open or close,” said Jacksonville Ice & Sportsplex owner Mark Scheff of Jacksonville, Florida. “We’ve pretty much hit that point. We closed on March 17 and I decided to continue to pay the employees until about two weeks ago when we were just running out of money. The landlord wanted their money and they weren’t making any concessions and the $15,000 utility bill had to be paid.”

Scheff admits thought, it won’t be business as usual when the rink opens this weekend. “We’ve put together seven or eight pages of public protocols, the majority of which will stay in place forever,” Scheff said. “I truly believe this is this generation’s 9-11. It’s going to change everything.”

Are rinks like Scheff’s taking a risk? Surely, but the fact is that the state has re-opened the economy and if he doesn’t open his door to customers then the community will lose its ice rink. And here’s the thing… customers are banging down the door to get in.

Scheff reports an 88% retention rate in his beer league teams and the players want to get back on the ice.

“We’re all just happy to be back out there,” local Jacksonville men’s league hockey player Robert Tatarski said. “I don’t know how it’s all going to work. I’m sure there won’t be the spit police out there. I think it’s going to be left to discretion and people are going to have to do the best they can.”

It’s fair to say that Tatarski speaks for a lot of us beer leaguers when he says that he doesn’t know how it’s all going to work… but that it’s just encouraging to hear that we might be able to hit the ice again soon.

For the full article from The Hockey News, click below: