Fans line up outside of Gila River Arena before the NHL game between the Arizona Coyotes and the Winnipeg Jets on October 9, 2014 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Arizona Coyotes president and CEO Xavier A. Gutierrez announced Monday that the team is planning to open the season with limited fans in attendance during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This has been top of mind for us to be focused on health and safety and protocols,” he said.
“Our number one priority is to make sure that all of our team members — whether it’s the players, the coaches, the medical staff, the training staff, as well as all of the employees here on the business operations side, are safe and are healthy.”
The Coyotes’ home opener is on Jan. 14 against the San Jose Sharks.
The Arizona Cardinals stopped having fans in early December after initially allowing up to 4,200 in attendance for two November games, and smaller numbers the week prior. The Phoenix Suns said they will begin the season without fans.
Gutierrez said the organization hopes to announce some innovative and tech-enabled tools they will use to keep everyone safe.
Arizona recently had record-high coronavirus numbers on Thursday, including COVID-19 inpatients (3,884), overall inpatient capacity (93%), overall ICU capacity (92%) and fewest open ICU beds (140).
The number of cases per day has spiked, with post-Thanksgiving tests done on Nov. 30, Dec. 1 and Dec. 2 reaching over 7,000 per day, according to the Arizona Department of Health and Services. Those numbers hit over 7,000 cases on Dec. 7, 8 and 9 as well, including a new record of 8,139 positives from tests done on Dec. 14.
The previous high before November was 5,452 on June 29, and the daily number had held below 2,000 from July 22 to Nov. 2. A second wave of the virus has hit the state hard since, like the majority of the country.
Gutierrez said that bringing the fans in is subject to ongoing review and flexibility
“We’re certainly aware of the times that we’re living in,” he said.