The San Jose Sharks’ season has gone from unexpected to unprecedented.
Instead of ramping up for yet another Stanley Cup run, cellar-dwelling San Jose has been beset by inconsistent play, freak injuries and a coaching change. And now, those are the least of their worries.
Yesterday, Santa Clara County officials banned all mass gatherings of more than 1,000 people for the rest of the month, in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19. For the Sharks, that means three home games are in danger of being re-located, postponed or played in an empty SAP Center. Next week, San Jose might become the first team in NHL history to play a regular season game in an arena without fans.
But it’s not just about being a team — for the moment — without a home. The Sharks, like the rest of the world, are grappling with the coronavirus’s pervasive effects on every aspect of their lives.
“We want to keep our workplace as clean as possible and be cognizant of one another,” Evander Kane said, as the team was getting ready to leave on a four-game road trip. “I’m a little OCD, so I’ve always sanitized myself and my car and steering wheel and iPhones, all that type of stuff. So nothing really new for me.”
Bob Boughner has two children attending law school at the University of Detroit Mercy: “I talked to my kids yesterday. They’re talking about canceling their classes and doing the rest of law school through Skype. It’s affecting everybody.”
The coronavirus certainly is affecting everybody, but so far, it’s proven more likely to be fatal to the elderly.
“You think of your parents,” Kane said, who we presume he gained his general cleanliness from. Perry and Sheri Kane live in Vancouver. “Just doing the same things we’ve always done. Wash your hands, stay home if you’re sick.”
“My parents are a little bit older, so they have to take precautions,” Joe Thornton noted. Wayne and Mary Thornton live in St. Thomas, Ontario. “You really have to be on top of things.”
Swiss native Timo Meier gets that. Switzerland borders Italy, which so far, has been the hardest-hit by the coronavirus of all the European countries.
Meier said of his family: “Everybody’s cautious. Everybody from my family, we try to do everything in our hands to stay away from the virus, clean our hands.”
This, of course, may just be the beginning of a pandemic that is likely to affect a lot more than just three Sharks games. The Stanley Cup Final? The 2020 Olympics? The 2020 presidential election? Everything is on the table — at this point, nothing is certain.
So you’ll forgive the Sharks — or anybody — if their minds are a million miles away in Switzerland or Vancouver or St. Thomas or Detroit or San Jose, instead of tomorrow’s game in Chicago.
“We’re going through it like you guys, learning through it like you guys,” Thornton told a media throng that was required to stand at least six feet away. “We’ll see what happens when we get back from the road trip.”
The coronavirus is here, there and everywhere.