Fans will return to Rogers Place Saturday as the Edmonton Oilers play at home for the first time in 2022. It’s also the first time fans will be in the building with the new COVID-19 capacity and food and beverage rules in place.
So what will the fan experience be like while these rules are in place?
“We’re back to some unusual operating conditions for sure,” Tim Shipton with the Oilers Entertainment Group told 630 CHED Mornings with Daryl McIntyre.
On Dec. 21, the province announced new restrictions in an effort to slow the spread of the Omicron variant. Effective Christmas Eve, venues that seat more than 1,000 people were limited to half capacity, affecting the World Juniors and all upcoming Oilers games.
Masks are now mandatory at all times at these events and there will be no food or beverages to be consumed in seats or during intermission. Previously, masks were mandatory unless actively eating or drinking.
“We are allowed some food and beverage in restaurants within the building such as Studio 99, Molson Canadian Hockey House and a few other locations,” Shipton added.
When it comes to whose tickets get honoured, Shipton said the Oilers’ ticketing team is working one-on-one with people who have already purchased tickets. If someone doesn’t want to attend the upcoming game, other dates are being offered.
Shipton said the team is approaching things one game at a time, but did say they were hopeful to be back at full capacity within a few weeks.
“We’ve got a degree of confidence — given where the variant is at and also given the fact that we have a strong track record of operating Rogers Place in a safe manner — that we can find a pathway to getting back to full attendance,” he said.
“We think that can happen sooner rather than later, which is why we’re taking that single-game approach, that we feel relatively confident that at some point in January, we can be back to to full attendance.”
Premier Jason Kenney said he has not spoken to the Oilers and has not given any teams any assurances that capacity limits are being reconsidered.
“On the policy issue of the capacity limits, we are not revisiting those limits at this current time,” he said Thursday afternoon during a COVID-19 update.
“We’ll continue to monitor that situation. We all hope that we will begin to see soon Omicron move into a down track — and there will still be, obviously, a lag in hospitalizations. But unless and until we start to see significant decline in viral transmission, we will not be entertaining an increase in current capacity limits.”
Due to players and staff for the Oilers and other teams entering COVID protocol, a number of Oilers games have been postponed. The Oilers haven’t played since Jan. 4 when the team was in Toronto.
Since NHL players are no longer going to represent Canada in the upcoming Winter Olympics, the league will use the Olympic break to make up some of the postponed games.
The Oilers host the Ottawa Senators Saturday evening at Rogers Place. 630 CHED will carry the game, starting with the Face-Off Show at 6:30 p.m. The puck drops at 8 p.m.