When the coronavirus pandemic hit, sports was one of the first things to shut down. After a several-month pause, the NHL playoffs began in July and the league retreated to a Canadian bubble. For a vast majority of the 2020-21 regular season, games were played in front of no fans. But things are finally beginning to open up again.
As someone who grew up having season tickets for the majority of my life, not attending a single hockey game for over a year was strange. Thankfully, being in New York for school gave me the opportunity to attend a Capitals game at the Nassau Coliseum against the New York Islanders on April 1. Back in March, the Islanders were allowed to fill the arena to 10 percent capacity (approximately 1,300 fans) for games. Due to the limited amount of space, the Islanders gave their season ticket holders first access to the games.
The only way for non-season ticket holders to get tickets is from resale which is causing ticket prices to escalate. As of right now, tickets for the upper levels of the arena are going for around $300 per ticket.
Getting to attend a game was exciting, but I was curious how different the experience would be and how safe I would feel with the COVID-19 protocols they have in place. So I recorded down my experience at Nassau Coliseum so fans who return to Capital One Arena for Tuesday’s Capitals game will have an idea what things will be like.
COVID-19 procedures before entering the arena
The Islanders have many protocols in place to make sure fans entering the arena are not infected with COVID-19. This is done to ensure the safety of everyone in the building. The Islanders have several options for fans to show proof of negative test results. The first option is to get a PCR test taken within 72 hours of game day. The Islanders partnered with Northwell Health-GoHealth Urgent Care to make the process easier and more reliable for fans. The test can be scheduled by using a link from the Islanders website. This is the test that I received before going to the game and it was surprisingly easy. Some COVID-19 testing centers can take a while even with an appointment, but when I received my test through Northwell Health I was in and out within five minutes.
We love having #Isles fans back in the building! 👏
In accordance w/ NY State Guidelines, starting April 1, rapid antigen tests & vaccinations are now accepted at the Coliseum.
— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) March 26, 2021
The other options for fans (especially those who make last-minute decisions) are to get a rapid test taken within six hours of game time. You can get a rapid at any COVID-19 testing center that offers them or on-site at the Nassau Coliseum. The downfall of getting tested onsite is each test will cost $25 but if you have health insurance you could get a rapid test for free with any healthcare provider.
The last option for fans is to show proof of being fully vaccinated. To qualify for this you need to receive your final dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at least 14 days before the game.
Entering the arena
Once you arrived at the arena, staff have you fill out a survey that asks if you had been in contact with anyone who has tested positive for the virus. After you’ve filled out the questionnaire, you receive a health pass that you present to security.
Heading to the Coli for the game tonight?
Be sure to complete the health survey prior to entry in order to receive your #Isles Health Pass! 📝
— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) April 8, 2021
After you presented your health pass along with your negative COVID-19 test or vaccine card, you continued through security like normal to get your tickets scanned.
Inside the arena
On the concourse of the Coliseum, they had the walkway divided into two sides for people walking left and right.
They also had no concession stand open inside the arena. Instead, that had food trucks that were accessible once you were inside the arena. I thought this was a smart idea to help support local businesses while also cutting the cost of each game.
Once you got to your seat, groups were socially distant and placed a safe distance from each other. One thing I did notice was that all the seats that the Islanders filled for 10% capacity were strategically placed on the side of the arena across from the TV cameras. This gives the illusion of a more full arena event with a capacity limit.
During the game, staff walked around to make sure everyone was keeping their masks on and staying in their seats.
Although the game wasn’t very fun with losing 8-4 and everything, I did feel very safe. Although everyone was socially distant and wearing masks attending this game made it feel like the good ole days before the pandemic.
Russian Machine Never Breaks is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
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