The National Hockey League now appears to be on a clear path to eventually playing out the remainder of its 2019 - 2020 regular season in empty arenas in spite of the logistical challenges that this will no doubt create. There have been a ton of questions regarding the competitive integrity of such a scenario with a huge number of variables potentially coming into play, one of which of course is how the empty arenas themselves will psychology impact the players.
It may seem like a minor thing but to go from playing in front of tens of thousands of cheering fans in some cases to complete silence will be a major change for the players and will present a challenge that they likely have never faced as professionals. Interestingly enough however there is at least one man in the National Hockey League that has experience playing in an empty arena and that man is none other than Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Jon Cooper. In recent comments reported by the National Hockey League's official website Cooper revealed that he had actually encountered this scenario in the past and indicated he was confident it would have no lasting impact on the players.
"It didn't change a thing," Cooper recalled as per NHL.com. "Guys were battling it out, gaming it out. That's the only thing I can reflect on when I was a part of something like that at kind of a crucial time in the second round of the playoffs. It was still one hell of a hockey game."
"The first five minutes everybody gets a shift in and there are no fans in the stands, there will probably be a little bit of sarcasm going on the bench like there is on every single NHL bench about what's going on," Cooper said. "But I'm telling you, once the banging starts and the competitive juices kick in, I don't think guys will even notice."
No doubt how much the players are actually impacted by this will vary from player to player and team to team, and it will be interesting to see if any teams in particular are impacted by the unprecedented changes.