On Friday night, the Bruins will do something they haven’t done in almost a full calendar year: Play in front of fans.
The Rangers will host roughly 2,000 fans at Madison Square Garden for the Bruins’ games there on Friday night and Sunday afternoon, marking their first home games with fans this season and the Bruins’ first games anywhere with fans since they played in Philadelphia last March 10, their last game before the season was put on pause due to the coronavirus pandemic.
New York governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Feb. 10 that stadiums and arenas could start to open to a limited number of fans. The Knicks and Nets welcomed fans back to MSG and the Barclays Center, respectively, on Tuesday, with the Rangers now set to follow suit.
The Bruins also play in New York on Thursday against the Islanders, but the Nassau Coliseum is not opening to fans until March 18.
Appearing on The Greg Hill Show Thursday morning, Bruins center Sean Kuraly said he and his teammates are “so excited” to finally play in front of fans again, even if the building is only about 10% full.
“It’s huge. So excited, honestly,” Kuraly said. “I think it’s only 1,500 or 2,000, but I think we’ve all got that circled. Some of us were talking about that at breakfast this morning, that we’ve had that circled on the calendar. We even got a text about possibly having friends or family -- actually, it had to be family -- come to the game, so that was a nice text to send some family. Obviously it’s the first time in almost a year.”
A handful of NHL teams -- like the Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers, Dallas Stars and Arizona Coyotes -- were already allowing a limited number of fans to attend games, but the Rangers will be the first in the Bruins’ East Division. In addition to the Islanders, the Sabres and Devils are also expected to follow suit in the next couple weeks.
There have not yet been any plans announced for a return of fans to TD Garden for Bruins and Celtics home games. Boston mayor Marty Walsh said on The Greg Hill Show in December that they were “trying to shoot for February or March,” but there has been little news since then.
Around that same time, Bruins president Cam Neely explained some of the changes that have been made to accommodate fans as safely as possible whenever they do get the green light.