It is needless to say 2020 has been a strange year. Covid-19 sent much of the world to a screeching halt, sports obviously being included. The four month hiatus was incredibly hard on sports fans, but thankfully they are back. Hockey fans in Birmingham are ready to be back in the Pelham Civic Complex on December 26 to see the Bulls take on the Pensacola Ice Flyers, but the SPHL will look a little different this year. With half of the league opting out due to Covid-19 and special guidelines in place to enable social distancing, there are bound to be some challenges. But nevertheless, it will be great to see our beloved Bulls back in action.
Five out of the ten SPHL teams decided to sit this season out. These teams include the Evansville Thunderbolts, Fayetteville Marksman, Peoria Riverman, Quad City Storm, and Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs. These five teams are located in states with heavier restrictions, which would have required them to find another city to play in for the season. After conferring with the rest of the league and the league board, they decided that it would simply be too much trouble. We sure will miss these guys this season!
The teams that are able to participate this season definitely will face their fair share of pandemic related challenges. The MLB, NFL, and NCAA have all had to deal with cancelations, postponements, and covid outbreaks. Luckily leagues and individual teams have been able to stay on top of controlling the spread through tactics like contact tracing, which is the process of observing the people each player is close to if he were to test positive. Even if the Bulls are able to avoid canceling games, there is a chance that players could be required to quarantine and miss a few games.
From the fan perspective, masks are obviously going to be required unless eating or drinking. All fans will have their temperature taken upon arrival to the Pelham Civic Complex to ensure that everyone has a body temperature below 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Each fan will also complete a covid-19 related self-assessment when entering. Fans are strongly encouraged to follow social distancing guidelines any time they are around people outside of their group. There will be hand sanitizer stations available throughout the arena. The Bulls will have roughly 75% capacity to start the season, but that number could change.
After a long nine months, we will finally have hockey in Birmingham again very shortly. As fans we need to make sure we do our part. Mask up, wash your hands and use hand sanitizer often, social distance, and stay home if you are showing symptoms. If we are careful, we might just get to see our guys bring home a championship this season.