The Victoria Royals will play in an empty arena in their final road game of the season March 20 against the Silvertips in Everett, Washington, due to concerns over COVID-19.
Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee has banned mass gatherings of more than 250 people.
“In accordance to today’s government mandate in relation to the spread of COVID-19 and limited crowd gatherings, the Everett Silvertips plan to host the Victoria Royals on Friday, March 20, at Angel of the Winds Arena as scheduled, with the game closed to the general public,” said a statement issued by the club.
The team said tickets purchased for the game will be honoured at a later date, although March 20 is the final regular-season home game for the Silvertips.
Victoria head coach Dan Price said that while fans are an important and integral part of the game, health and safety are foremost.
“Both teams will be prepared to play the game in any setting,” Price said, adding: “The game will be just as intense.”
The Seattle Thunderbirds will also play their final two WHL home games — Saturday against the Vancouver Giants and Tuesday versus the Spokane Chiefs — without fans in attendance at ShoWare Center in Kent, Washington.
Puget Sound is the epicentre in the United States of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Several leagues are taking similar measures in a bid to limit spread of the virus. Upcoming games in the NCAA basketball tournament will be played behind closed doors, while the NBA is suspending its season until further notice after Wednesday’s games.
“The WHL fully understands and respects the position taken by Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee today and will comply with the public gathering requirements for the upcoming WHL home games of the Seattle Thunderbirds and Everett Silvertips,” WHL commissioner Ron Robison said in a statement.
“We take the safety of our players, officials, staff, fans and everyone associated with the WHL very seriously, and will take every step necessary to assist in containing this virus.”
The league said it will continue monitoring the situation.
There were fans Wednesday night at Prospera Place in the Okanagan to watch the Royals play the Kelowna Rockets in Victoria’s penultimate road game of the regular season.
The Royals host the Prince George Cougars on Friday and Saturday nights at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre.
ICE CHIPS: The Rogers Hometown Hockey show scheduled for Campbell River on March 21-22 has been cancelled, along with all scheduled stops to the end of the NHL season.
“While this is disappointing for everyone involved, it is the right thing to do,” said Rogers Sports and Media in a statement.
“The well-being of the community, fans and our employees is a top priority and we need to take all necessary steps to ensure their safety.”
Rogers said stories about Campbell River will still be featured as part of the Winnipeg Jets versus Dallas Stars game March 22. The show, however, will originate from the Sportsnet studio in Toronto and not from Campbell River as originally planned.