COVID Restrictions Impact Home Ice Advantage

Photo: @thebbtcenter

While every NHL team in the United States now has fans in the stands, they vary in capacity levels due to local COVID-19 restrictions. With the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs starting on Saturday, the disparity in crowd sizes could lead to advantages for some teams when it comes to energy in the building. NoVa Caps looks at how many fans each of the 12 U.S.-based teams will have in the stands when the Stanley Cup Playoffs begin on Saturday.

None of the four Canadian teams (Toronto Maple Leafs, Edmonton Oilers, Winnipeg Jets, or Montreal Canadiens) will allow fans to start the Stanley Cup Playoffs and that will not likely change soon due to soaring COVID-19 cases in Canada. Those teams will all be in the same situation until Round 3, most likely. The winner of the North Division bracket will likely have to temporarily relocate for the final two rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs due to the closed border between the United States and Canada.

In the Central Division, the restrictions in the cities are less strict with all four qualifiers (Carolina Hurricanes, Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Nashville Predators) in the south, where states have been relatively relaxed when it comes to COVID-19 restrictions. The Panthers are set to allow 9,000 fans (47% capacity) while the Lightning will allow slightly fewer (7,000 – 37%), which should not give either team a big advantage in their first-round series. The Hurricanes will allow 6,000 fans (30%) capacity and the Predators will be allowed to have 14,000 (70%). While many are expecting that series to be a short one in favor of the Hurricanes, the Predators have an advantage with their rocking crowd, which could provide Nashville with a boost.

In the West Division, the Vegas Golden Knights could have the biggest home-ice advantage in the NHL. T-Mobile Arena started to allow 50% capacity (10,000 fans) towards the end of the regular season, which could spell trouble for the Minnesota Wild or St. Louis Blues, the team’s possible first-round opponents, taking into account the crazy atmosphere in Vegas. In comparison, the Blues will allow 5,000 fans (26% capacity) and the Wild will let in 4,500 (25%). The Colorado Avalanche will allow 7,750 (42%).

In the East, the Pittsburgh Penguins will allow nearly 9,900 fans (50%) for their first-round series against the New York Islanders, who can welcome 3,500 fans (25%). The Washington Capitals can have up to 5,000 (25%) for the upcoming best-of-seven against the Boston Bruins, who will be able to host 4,565 (25%), so neither team will have a major advantage in their series.

While home ice is historically a big advantage in the playoffs, local COVID-19 restrictions will impact the edge teams fight hard to gain during the regular season. The home team will have a harder time creating energy in the crowd than years past, which gives the road team an advantage. It will be interesting to follow the first-round contests to see whether capacity restrictions affect the match-ups.

Avalanche 7,750 (42%)
Golden Knights 10,000 (50%)
Wild 4,500 (25%)
Blues 5,000 (26%)
Hurricanes 6,000 (30%)
Panthers 9,000 (47%)
Lightning 7,000 (37%)
Predators 14,000 (70%)
Maple Leafs N/A
Oilers N/A
Jets N/A
Canadiens N/A
Penguins 9,900 (50%)
Capitals 5,000 (25%)
Bruins 4,565 (25%)
Islanders 3,500 (25%)

By Harrison Brown

About Harrison Brown

Harrison is a diehard Caps fan and a hockey fanatic with a passion for sports writing. He attended his first game at age 8 and has been a season ticket holder since the 2010-2011 season. His fondest Caps memory was watching the Capitals hoist the Stanley Cup in Las Vegas. In his spare time, he enjoys travel, photography, and hanging out with his two dogs. Follow Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonB927077
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