Coronavirus: San Jose Sharks may have to play in empty arena after Santa Clara ban on mass gatherings

Amid increasing concern over the coronavirus outbreak, Santa Clara County health officials announced a temporary ban on all events (both public and private) that would draw large gatherings and possibly spread the virus. That ban, which prohibits crowds of more than 1,000 people, will carry through at least the end of March and could affect multiple San Jose Sharks games scheduled at SAP Center in the coming weeks. 

The Sharks, who are scheduled to play three home games this month, released a statement following the decision on Monday night:

"SAP Center at San Jose is aware of the County of Santa Clara's Public Health Department order to prohibit public and private mass gatherings through the end of March. We will adhere to the mandated guidelines. No events are scheduled at SAP Center until Tues., March 17. We will be reviewing each scheduled event due to take place for the rest of the month and provide an update in the coming days. We appreciate the understanding and patience of our fans, guests and partners during this unprecedented time." 

Earlier in the day, the NHL was one of four major North American sports leagues to announce that they were temporarily limiting media access and closing locker rooms to all non-essential personnel in an effort to curb the outbreak. Alongside MLB, MLS and the NBA, the league released a joint statement.

"After consultation with infectious disease and public health experts, and given the issues that can be associated with close contact in pre- and post-game settings, all team locker rooms and clubhouses will be open only to players and essential employees of teams and team facilities until further notice," read the public statement from the four leagues. "Media access will be maintained in designated locations outside of the locker room and clubhouse setting. These changes will be effective beginning with tomorrow's games and practices."

Now not only will media be shut out of the dressing rooms but fans could be shut out of the arena entirely. With less than a month remaining in the regular season and the Stanley Cup playoffs looming, it seems that the Sharks might be forced to play this month's home games without a crowd in attendance or, in a less likely alternative, relocate those games to a neutral site unaffected by the ban.

Pete Blackburn is from Boston, so there's a good chance you don't like him already. He has been a writer at CBS Sports since 2017 and usually aims to take a humorous and light-hearted approach to the often... Full Bio

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