Shot for Shot

With the Delta variant of COVID-19 rapidly causing more infections, we take a look at what teams are doing to combat it

NHL teams begin mandating vaccines for fans

What’s Happening: With the quick and ever-evolving nature of COVID-19, the Delta variant of this virus has grown out of control in countries around the world. It has also wreaked havoc in North America, and as fall approaches, many teams are bracing for its impact on home game attendance. In order to keep fans safe, some teams are mandating that fans must be fully vaccinated or have passed a COVID test to be able to enter the arena to watch home games. 

Currently, only Canadian teams have instituted a fully vaccinated or passed COVID test for entry to home games. The Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames, and Toronto Maple Leafs are the four teams to have this policy in effect for the 2021-2022 season. But, as we know, COVID moves quickly, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if some teams in the United States follow suit. Recently, LSU instituted this vaccination policy for anyone who wishes to watch its men’s football team play this upcoming season.

Why It Matters: Clearly, this has massive implications for NHL teams on a logistical level. If you’ve ever been to a game and experienced the slow crawl it takes to get into an arena, this snail-like pace will be further exacerbated by the institution and verification of every attendees’ vaccine status. Furthermore, never has there been a time where such a policy has been implemented. This is uncharted territory for the NHL teams that implement this, and the biggest challenge will be how they will handle it logistically. 

How some fans react to such a policy is also likely to factor into the conversation. Fans that are unvaccinated at their choosing are likely not going to be pleased about such a policy and could choose to make their voices heard through protests outside of home arenas.

What’s Next: With these four teams announcing a vaccination mandate to be able to watch games in their home arena, the expectation is that more teams will follow suit. While it’s not immediately clear when it will happen, as fall rapidly approaches and as more people stay indoors due to colder weather, it gives this Delta variant more chances to spread. Thus, it’s likely that more teams will institute either the same or a similar policy.

This effort to keep fans safe amid an ongoing global pandemic is the right approach to take. Teams that don’t institute a vaccination mandate are flirting with the risk of having a mass outbreak at games and potentially even having no fans be allowed to watch a game in the arena. For Canadian teams especially, having no fans in the stands for a second consecutive year is a dealbreaker, as they look to recoup the massive losses sustained last year. If it means putting forth a policy to keep fans safe and ensure revenues are being generated, these NHL teams are making the right choice.

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