Boston University Athletics announced Oct. 29 no spectators will be allowed at home games for basketball and ice hockey this season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“While we are disappointed to share this news with our loyal and supportive fans, this decision is an important step in continuing to provide a healthy environment for our student-athletes, and our entire BU community,” Athletic Director Drew Marrochello wrote in a letter to the BU community.
The announcement comes after in-person training and practices were temporarily halted in mid-October due to an uptick in coronavirus cases on campus. As of now, both men’s and women’s hockey and basketball have no official schedule for the 2020-21 season, but Marchello stated in his letter they are discussing a return to play with their respective athletic conferences.
“We are in continuous conversations with the Patriot League and Hockey East about our delayed season schedules,” Marrochello wrote, “and our teams are eagerly awaiting their return to competition on the court and ice.”
Men’s basketball head coach Joe Jones said he was not surprised by the announcement his team will play in an empty arena.
“I never thought we were going to have fans,” Jones said. “I think it will impact the games and getting used to what that’s like, but it has not impacted me.”
The men’s basketball team won its first Patriot League title last season and qualified for the NCAA tournament right before the pandemic forced the cancellation of March Madness, as well as the halt of all sports nationwide.
Jones said not having fans at games will take some adjusting to for his players at first, but that he is not concerned about it negatively affecting their performance on the court.
“Maybe early on, it might feel a little different,” Jones said. “But I think as we start to go, it’ll become the norm. And I think our guys will be fine with handling that.”
Jones said his team has been focusing on staying present and living by the motto, “Control what you can control.” The loss of games, he said, also means more time to practice and perfect players’ skills.
“We have to try to think about maximizing our time every time we’re on the floor and not get caught up in thinking, ‘Wow, we have until January to play,’” Jones said, “because if that’s your mindset before it’s all said and done, you’re not going to make the most of your time right now.”
Women’s hockey is also coming off a successful season, finishing second to only Northeastern University in the Hockey East this past year.
Head coach Brian Durocher said he agrees with BU’s decision to prohibit spectators this season and commended administrators for the precautions they have taken to limit the spread of the virus.
“I think it’s a smart move and it’s a safe move,” Durocher said. “I give a lot of credit to everybody in the University for all they’ve done.”
Durocher said he believes his team will be able to adjust to the unique circumstance of playing in an empty Walter Brown Arena.
“I mean, there’s days where you’d love to have a little more energy in the building,” Durocher said. “But once the puck drops, once they start skating, once they start moving around, they’ll compete, and they’ll skate hard, and they’ll work, and they’ll create their own fun and their own energy.”
His players are grateful for the opportunity to play hockey and practice in small groups, Durocher said, even if they might not know when they will be able to compete.
“Just about every single person, every day they’re at the rink, there’s smiles on their face,” Durocher said, “because it’s their chance to maybe forget all this craziness that’s going on in all of our lives.”