PHILADELPHIA – It hasn’t happened in the Flyers’ 53-year history but it’s getting very close to reality.
On Saturday afternoon, Flyers’ officials were discussing the possibility of closing their locker room to the media and other non-team personnel due to the rising threat of the coronavirus.
At least one NHL team, the New York Islanders, already took action on Saturday, closing its room on game day for a contest against the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Flyers said they were keeping their room open for the game against the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night.
But all that could change quickly.
Earlier in the day, the NHL issued a statement that said teams could use their own discretion as far as the status of their locker rooms.
Early Saturday night, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman held a press conference and confirmed that the league, for now, is leaving a policy on locker rooms up to the individual teams.
A Flyers spokesperson said if the room is closed for Tuesday night’s home game against Boston, players would be brought to the formal press conference room.
This is the statement released by the Wells Fargo Center:
“We are monitoring the situation closely in coordination with the Center for Disease Control (CDC), local health officials, our league partners and live event promoters. The safety and well-being of our guests, athletes, staff and partners is paramount and we have strengthened our sanitation processes and procedures throughout the arena. We will continue to collaborate with our medical and safety teams and act accordingly as this situation develops.
According to a story in the New York Post, the Islanders acted on their own judgment.
Islanders president Lou Lamoriello made the decision.
“We cannot control the amount of press that go in the room, who have credentials, who come from everywhere,” Lamoriello told reporters Saturday at Nassau Coliseum.
“So we’re going to pro-act to that, and it is my understanding that Carolina will pro-act to that.”
There has been talk of limiting attendance at games.
Asked if the league has addressed the potential of limiting fan attendance at future games, Lamoriello added: “Right now, you’re as updated as I am what the league has done, has given us many materials that are available, as far as what to do to prevent it, and what we have to do in our locker rooms and around everything we do. You’ll know as soon as we know, just like you know right now. In fact you (in the media) knew before I did.”
An ESPN report on Saturday said the league, following a recommendation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, had mandated that teams close locker rooms. An NHL source, however, said that was not the case.