Santa Clara County restrictions limit Sharks options to return

On Saturday, Santa Clara County issued new restrictions to try to limit the spread of COVID-19, as the county faces a rising number of cases. The majority of the Bay Area is now in the state’s purple tier, the most restrictive when it comes to re-opening, as the virus is considered widespread.

The new restrictions include a temporary ban on sporting events at every level, as well as a mandatory 14-day quarantine for anyone traveling to Santa Clara County from more than 150 miles away. Hotels and other facilities are to only remain open for “essential travel” or to provide quarantine and isolation spaces. Stores are allowed to operate at a 10-25 percent capacity.

These restrictions go into effect on Monday, November 30, and will last for at least three weeks, with a possibility for extension.

According to the Mercury News, the ban on sporting events includes football, basketball, soccer and hockey, but not necessarily sports that are no-contact, such as tennis or swimming, per clarification from county CEO Jeff Smith. It is not expected that professional sports teams will be granted an exception.

With the NHL still hoping to return on January 1, 2021, this presents a problem for the San Jose Sharks. The seven teams who did not participate in the 2019-20 postseason are expecting a three-week camp ahead of the 2020-21 season, to account for their teams being off the ice since the season pause in early March.

Three weeks out from January 1 is December 11, not accounting for the holidays that fall in that three-week span. The county order are effective through December 21.

The 14-day quarantine also means that any Sharks players not currently in the county would not be able to immediately participate in training camp.

Last week, Sharks president Jonathan Becher told reporters that the team was exploring their options, as they had not yet been granted permission for larger group practices at Solar4America Ice, but that having camp outside of the county was a “last resort.” It also seems unlikely that any of the surrounding counties would offer large team practices, as the entire Bay Area, save for Marin County, is in the purple tier. Marin, for now, remains in the red tier.

Still, the Sharks have two facilities in Alameda County — one in Fremont and the other in Oakland.

The NHL was initially looking at a modified “hub city” plan for their 2021 return, but owners and management have been pushing back, wanting to start the season in their own arenas. But what’s happening in the Bay Area isn’t an exceptional case. Many cities and states are returning to some form of restriction on gatherings. To have every team ready to return by January 1 is going to require a lot of things to happen quickly under varied restrictions.