UPDATE: In a reversal, the Columbus Blue Jackets have excluded fans from the Thursday night game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Columbus.
The Columbus organization revised its earlier statement. Please see the updated story HERE
It’s common for a lot of Pittsburgh Penguins fans to travel to Columbus when the team plays a road game against the Blue Jackets. For those planning to go to Thursday’s game at Nationwide Arena, here is the latest on things as they relate to the coronavirus. Although Ohio governor Mike DeWine has recommended that sporting events be held without spectators as a precaution to help stem the spread of the virus, the Blue Jackets have decided to open the game to all ticketholders at their discretion. Columbus general manager Jarmo Kekalainen talked about that after the Blue Jackets practiced at the arena Wednesday. The Penguins, who spoke about the coronavirus Tuesday, practiced there afterward. The virus has been declared a global pandemic. “We as an organization are going make sure that we do everything in our control to make the workplace as safe as possible for everybody,” Kekalainen said. “We’ve been in constant contact with the medical people, the medical experts – not only locally but on the league level.” As for going against the governor’s wishes, Kekalainen said, “That’s his recommendation. As a league, we’ve decided to play in front of our fans. … We’ll take every precaution possible to make sure that people that attend our games are as safe as possible.” A Blue Jackets spokesman said if anyone with a ticket for the game wants to exchange those tickets or get a refund, they should contact the team. Here is the statement the Blue Jackets made Tuesday: “The Columbus Blue Jackets are aware of the recommendation by Governor DeWine that events at indoor sports and entertainment facilities be conducted without spectators. We have been in contact with the National Hockey League and, given the facts before us, it has been determined that our scheduled games, including this Thursday vs. Pittsburgh and Saturday vs. Nashville, will go on as scheduled and be open to ticketed fans that wish to attend. “Our club, the NHL and Nationwide Arena have been monitoring Coronavirus COVID-19 very closely. The NHL has been in regular communication with the Center for Disease Control, Public Health Canada, numerous medical advisors and other leagues and we are committed to the health and safety of our players, staff and fans. To that end, guests should adhere to recommendations that suggest persons at higher risk, including elderly individuals and those with currently compromised health issues or who are feeling ill, avoid large-scale public events. “Nationwide Arena has protocols in place to enhance procedures to fight the spread of viruses as they arise. In the case of COVID-19, additional steps have been taken that include an expanded, detailed cleaning throughout all areas of the arena and an increase in the number of hand sanitizer dispensers available to all. We also encourage guests to continue to practice routine hygiene etiquette as the best way to prevent the spread of viruses. “The club, League and Nationwide Arena will continue to closely monitor the situation as it evolves. It remains very fluid and any additional information or changes will be communicated at the appropriate time.”