In a reversal, the Columbus Blue Jackets have excluded fans from the Thursday night game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Columbus. Ohio Governor Mike DeWine had called for a ban due to coronavirus (COVID-19) fears, but Columbus initially rejected the call. However, by late Wednesday afternoon, the Columbus Blue Jackets banned fans in accordance with state government wishes.
Late as Wednesday morning, Columbus GM Jarmo Kekkalainen said the game would be open, but the organization reversed course.
The Columbus organization’s revised statement:
“The Columbus Blue Jackets are aware of Governor DeWine’s announcement today that an order prohibiting mass gatherings in the state of Ohio is forthcoming. We have been in contact with the National Hockey League regarding this matter and will abide by the state’s mandate. Remaining home games while the order is in effect, including tomorrow vs. Pittsburgh, will be played as scheduled, but with restricted attendance in compliance with today’s announcement.
Admission to games will be limited to home and visiting club personnel, credentialed media and broadcast partners, essential club and arena staff and NHL officials. The games will be closed to the public.”
Earlier this week, the San Jose Sharks canceled their remaining games following a local decry which banned gatherings larger than 150 people. The Pittsburgh Penguins earlier on Wednesday released a statement that said they too would keep games open to the public but strongly cautioned fans to take safety measures to protect themselves.
Also on Wednesday, the city of Pittsburgh canceled its St. Patrick’s Day parade, which is one of the largest in the country. And the World Figure Skating Championships were also canceled. And there will be NCAA Tournament games across the country played without fans.