General manager Don Waddell said that the Carolina Hurricanes are preparing for home games with a capacity that's intentionally limited due to the coronavirus pandemic.
"We have multiple plans. We have a task force that we've put in place internally to talk about all of these options. One of them is that we come back with no fans, and how we're going to deal with that. The second option is we come back and can only have -- pick the number -- five or eight thousand people in the building," said Waddell on a video conference call on Thursday. "The third option is that we can be totally open. We've talked at length and have plans for all of those situations."
The Hurricanes are one of the first NHL teams to discuss having home games with a limited capacity when the league returns from its season "pause" for the coronavirus. An email to the NHL for comment wasn't returned.
Even if the Hurricanes weren't to limit their capacity, Waddell said they're bracing for a potential downturn in attendance when fans are able to return to the arena for home games.
"We're modeling everything right now. Is it 10% less people? Is it 50% less people coming to games? We've done all kinds of models moving forward," said Waddell, whose team ranked 22nd in the NHL with 16,905 tickets distributed per home game. "Regardless of what the team does at this point, in society in general no one know how we're going to react to this. I'm a believer that we're going to find a cure in the near future where people are comfortable coming out of their houses where if they get it, there's a way to remedy it. A vaccine would help solve a lot of our issues."
Along with the coronavirus infection rates in some cities, NHL teams are having to plan around local and federal guidelines on mass gatherings and social distancing. That's why the league has been exploring neutral-site games for a potential summer restart of the season, in places like North Dakota and New Hampshire.
"If you look around what's going on in the country, there are probably some cities that you don't think you can play in. If you're going to play regular-season games, it makes sense to come up with some neutral-site places. Obviously, if you're bringing 31 teams back, you're going to have multiple sites to go to," Waddell said.
The Hurricanes were one of the most impacted teams when the NHL paused its regular season on March 12. Eight of their final 14 games were scheduled for PNC Arena in Raleigh.
"Without a doubt, it's going to have a huge impact on us financially this year. We had eight home games left. That's 20% of your games. You have the gate, the food and beverage, the parking, the TV rights, the sponsorship ... when you're talking about 20% of your income going away, that's a real big number," Waddell said.