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(Updated) Double Penguins Fans! PA Gov. Ups Indoor Capacity

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Pittsburgh Penguins fans
PITTSBURGH, PA - MARCH 02: Fans celebrate after a Pittsburgh Penguins Right Wing Bryan Rust (17) goal during the second period in the NHL game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Philadelphia Flyers on March 2, 2021, at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, PA. (Photo by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire)

Well now! The Pittsburgh Penguins will have more than a few thousand fans chanting, “Let’s Go Pens,” beginning next week as they begin the playoffs at PPG Paints Arena against the New York Islanders. The NHL has not yet scheduled a date for the series to begin, which only adds more intrigue to what comes next.

On Tuesday, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, who has been one of the more restrictive governors in the country (you decide if that’s good or bad), announced that capacity allowances on indoor events would increase 25% to 50% beginning Monday, May 17.

“It’s huge. (Fans) bring energy, they help us create the electric environment that our players love to play…This is a passionate fan base. They certainly love the Penguins,” head coach Mike Sullivan said. “…So any time we can, we can put more fans in the building we think that that helps create the environment, the energy that our players have, and the ability to feed off of. So that’s exciting news from our standpoint.”

UPDATE: The Penguins made it official:

The NHL has yet to announce dates for the Penguins’ first-round playoff series with the New York Islanders. If Game One is played before May 17, capacity for that game will remain at 25 percent, and any games on or after May 17 will be at the increased capacity of 50 percent. 

“This is very exciting news for our region and our fans,” said David Morehouse, president and CEO of the Penguins. “We want to thank Governor Wolf, Secretary Alison Beam, County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and Mayor William Peduto for their tireless efforts in safely opening venues as we work our way out of the pandemic. Thank you also to our partners at UPMC, who have been working with us every step of the way. All fans will still be required to wear masks, and other cleaning and safety efforts on game days will continue both inside and outside PPG Paints Arena.”

The Penguins ticketing department will be in contact directly with season ticket holders who have already purchased tickets to playoff games.

You may buy Penguins playoff tickets here. 

If the Penguins begin their series on Sunday, that could mean about 9,000 fans for Game 2. Currently, the Penguins are allowing about 5,000 fans into the building, which has removed any excuse of leaving early to beat the traffic.

The state is also set to remove all COVID mitigations efforts on Memorial Day, as the state hopes to achieve a 70% vaccination rate. In recent days, the Pfizer vaccine has been approved for use with children between the ages of 12-15. 

Nearly 53% of Pennsylvanians have received at least one shot and numbers are increasing again as more fence-sitters see the safety of the shots.

On Saturday night, most or all of the Pittsburgh Penguins team received their second vaccination shot. Head coach Mike Sullivan said the Penguins would well exceed the 85% threshold set forth by the NHL to be a “fully vaccinated” team.

All players, except Casey DeSmith who is dealing with a lower-body injury, participated in practice on Tuesday. 

On Memorial Day, Pennsylvania is set to remove nearly all COVID-19 moratoriums and restrictions, except masking measures. For outdoor activities, the C.D.C. recently clarified the transmission rarity. According to the New York Times on Tuesday, outdoor transmission rates, which were reported to be “under 10%” are actually closer to .1%. 

(In a well-balanced article, the Times concluded “All the while, the scientific evidence points to a conclusion that is much simpler than the C.D.C.’s message: Masks make a huge difference indoors and rarely matter outdoors.)

“We’re looking forward to the day when we can we can put full capacity in the building, quite honestly,” Sullivan said.

But the Penguins won’t be playing outdoors. Indoor activities, including arenas and especially cold air situations, are still riskier, especially for non-vaccinated individuals.

The highlighted links in this story all refer back to the original reporting and scientific studies. I’m not an expert, but I do listen to them.

The world is moving in the right direction. Can’t wait to see you at the arena, even if I can’t see you smiling…yet.

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now Editor-in-Chief, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight, NHL Home Ice. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

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