NHL hockey in an empty barn? Bruins admit ‘it’d be really tough’ playing in such a scenario

Photo by RvS.Media/Robert Hradil/Getty Images)

Patrice Bergeron generally knows what to expect this time of year when fielding questions from the media.

Less than a month separates Bergeron and his teammates from the Stanley Cup Playoffs — and with it, a chance for redemption following last spring’s crushing defeat against the Blues.

But on Monday morning at Warrior Ice Arena, most inquiries posed to Bergeron had little to do with Boston’s playoff expectations.

Rather, most of them revolved around the growing coronavirus outbreak that has stopped most sporting events overseas in its tracks — and is poised to turn leagues here in North America on their heads. 

“It’s kind of crazy,” Bergeron said. “Hopefully it kind of calms down and we can all talk about hockey.”

The effects of the virus have already started to take root in the NHL.

With the Bruins, it has been business as usual over the last few days — with the regular locker-room access provided during Saturday’s loss to the Lightning and Monday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena.

However, a joint press release issued by the NHL, MLB, NBA and MLS on Monday night announced the following:

“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. 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.

“We will continue to closely monitor this situation and take any further steps necessary to maintain a safe and welcoming environment.”

Some teams already started to enforce such measures earlier today:

Closing down locker rooms could just be the tip of the iceberg if the outbreak continues to worsen here in North America. 

Saturday morning, the IIHF announced it was canceling the Women's Hockey World Championships due to concerns about the virus. The two-week tournament was scheduled to start on March 31 and take place in Halifax and Truro, Nova Scotia.

Overseas, the IIHF canceled another six tournaments, while Switzerland’s top pro leagues (National League/Swiss League) announced that their postseasons would be postponed for the time being. Late last month, after the Swiss government issued a ban on events involving more than 1,000 people, many hockey clubs within the country had to play games with zero fans in attendance. 

Such drastic measures have indeed been discussed going forward here in the U.S. — with Lakers star LeBron James not too keen about possibly playing in empty arenas for the time being. 

Fair to say, Bergeron shares a similar sentiment with James.