QUEENS, N.Y. — New York Islanders co-owner Jon Ledecky wouldn’t predict when fans would be allowed back into NHL arenas, but he did say that the most important thing this season is to make sure that they can provide a safe environment for players, staff and fans if they are eventually allowed to attend games.
The question over if or when fans would be allowed to be in hockey arenas remained a big topic of discussion a day after the league and Players Association announced they had come to an agreement to play a 56-game schedule for the 2020-21 season. The COVID-19 shortened year will begin on Jan. 13.
“We’re happy to be playing, but the safety and health of not only our fans but our players and the whole entire hockey operations team is most paramount,” Ledecky said during an event at Long Island Jewish Medical Center to honor frontline workers. “I think Commissioner (Gary) Bettman, deputy commissioner (Bill) Daly and the medical experts at the NHL are really focused on making sure this season progresses and the players stay safe. The fact that we didn’t have any incidences at the bubble was terrific, but maintaining multiple bubbles is going to be an even greater challenge.
“I think the national hockey league is up to the challenge.”
— Christian Arnold (@C_Arnold01) December 21, 2020
A large part of Ledecky’s message on Monday afternoon was for people to remain vigilant against the COVID-19 virus and continue to heed the social distancing advice of public health officials. The Islanders co-owner would like to have fans in the building at some point, but he said he will follow the guidance of state and local leaders.
“Coming to a game would be terrific,” Ledecky said. “That time will eventually arrive, but we are going to listen to the health authorities and the experts at each and every step.”
The NHL is expected to host games in teams’ home arenas this season and if that is the case the Islanders will play at the Nassau Coliseum. Lou Lamoriello confirmed that the Islanders would utilize the county-owned arena in September and Ledecky reiterated that on Monday.
Lamoriello has been the one handling health and safety protocol preparations at Nassau Coliseum and Northwell Health Ice Center, the Islanders’ East Meadow practice facility. Earlier this month the New York State Departement of Health told NYI Hockey Now that they had been discussing “potential plans for the upcoming professional hockey season” with the state’s three NHL teams.
“Lou is at the forefront of this issue,” Ledecky said. “He’s working with commissioner Bettman and the officials at the NHL to determine and design the best plan for everyone that walks into the Nassau Coliseum. … Every single person will be treated in a way that is paramount.”
Any decisions about fans being let back into the building and protocols for their return should the state allow it would also be handled by Lamoriello.
Ledecky spent Monday afternoon thanking frontline workers at Long Island Jewish Medical Center for their work during the COVID-19 Pandemic. The Hospital was the site where ICU nurse Sandra Lindsey became the first person in the United States to receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.
— Christian Arnold (@C_Arnold01) December 21, 2020
Ledecky spoke with a group of nurses and presented them with cookies and Islanders memorabilia, which included jerseys with the word “HERO” printed on the back.
“This is an opportunity for us to tell the community how grateful we are for these frontline workers at Northwell,” Ledecky said. “The notion that they’ve handled 100,000 cases of COVID is staggering and astonishing, but it also is a feeling of positive opportunity for helping their fellow man. … They’re so modest. They don’t want to be in front of the cameras. They don’t want to be giving interviews, but we’re pushing them to do that because we want their stories to be told. They are heroes in our community. The jerseys that we gave them says hero and that says it all.”
While the pandemic is still not over, the Islanders co-owner is hoping that the return of the NHL can serve as a beacon of hope for a return to normalcy in the near future.
“A season this year is very important because it gives the fans hope,” Ledecky said. “It gives them hope that we’re on the backend of this scurge. And COVID is a scurge and we have to make sure we defeat it. The way to defeat that is to have some part of our lives return and being able to watch hockey on television is one way of a normalcy returning.”
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