It may be a little longer before New York Islanders fans are back in the Nassau Coliseum.
Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello cautioned that the team may not be letting spectators right in after Gov. Andrew Cuomo allows limited fans back into New York sporting venues beginning Feb. 23. Lamoriello told reporters that there were still a lot of unknowns about protocols.
The first game the Islanders would be allowed to have fans inside the Coliseum would be on Feb. 25 against the Boston Bruins.
“I don’t think you can assume anything. There is a lot that has to be done well before that,” Lamoriello said in response to a question from NYI Hockey Now. “And that’s not too far away. I don’t believe it will happen at that date, but I’m not the final decision-maker. With that the decisions will come from what the protocol is, can we satisfy the protocol. What is going to be necessary for the fans to be able to come in.”
Venues are only allowed 10 percent capacity under Cuomo’s guidelines and patrons must have proof of a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of the event. Social distancing will be enforced and face coverings will be required inside.
The New York State Department of Health must also approve all venue reopening plans.
When Cuomo made the announcement last Wednesday, the Brooklyn Nets, New York Knicks and New York Rangers all announced dates they would start to let fans back in. The Islanders did following the governor’s announcement.
“There’s certainly a lot of questions unanswered at this point,” Lamoriello said. “Everyone is working on it, but I don’t feel anyone should put a date on it.”
Following the Feb. 25 matchup with Boston, the next available game the Islanders could up the arena up to fans would the weekend set of games they have against Pittsburgh on Feb. 27 and Feb. 28. The Islanders have not hosted a home game at Nassau Coliseum with fans in attendance since March 7 against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Lamoriello said that everyone was excited to hear fans would be allowed back into the arena, but that it was also somewhat of a somber moment as well.
“Certainly knowing what this pandemic has done to people that were close to me and certainly friends, how important it is for the safety and health of all our fans and all of our people,” Lamoriello said. “That will take prime focus before that happens. There’s a lot of protocol that will have to be answered, but I’m excited to hear the potential of that coming about in the near future.
“But I don’t feel that should happen until we can handle that in a very safe way.”