Junior hockey team NJ Titans take to the ice, without fans, to face off against Maryland Black Bears
Junior hockey team the New Jersey Titans played its first game in Middletown Saturday night, without any fans in the stands.
The game was able to happen after Gov. Phil Murphy signed an executive order this week that will allow contact practices and competitions for certain sports.
Families were at the arena early with Titans players as they prepared to face the Maryland Black Bears.
"I don't think it affects the game at all. The puck's going to drop, you're going to play hockey, you're going to be held accountable to do the job on the ice that you have to and compete hard," said the junior hockey league's coach and general manager Craig Doremus. He said the sport already makes it easy to physically distance with face coverings and no need to touch the puck. "We're using UV lights and fogging machines to make sure that all the common areas are safe and sanitized for everyone, including the scores' booth, and the player boxes, and the penalty boxes, and any common touch areas," Doremus added.
When walking into the arena, players were required to be in their uniforms already because locker rooms are closed. The closest thing they have now is an outdoor area where they can put on and take off skates. And, of course, this all can't be done without signing in and getting a temperature check.
"It's a little bit different, but it's for the better I think." Said Joseph Abruzzo, athletic trainer for the Titans. He said the time off the ice still hasn't affected the players' performance, as they were still able to train on their own.
"When I'm interacting with them, I'm wearing gloves, I got my mask on, especially if I'm getting in their face and doing some manual therapy or something like that," Abruzzo said
Doremus said, overall, the team is willing to do whatever it takes to play again.
"The hockey keeps them on track academically, and keeps them on course to focus on school and make sure they're keeping up their grades. But I think that the health benefits, mentally and physically, weigh out, compound any of risks that potentially could happen," Doremus said.
The team also had to sign a code of conduct to confirm that they plan to follow social distancing protocol even outside of games and practices.
Fans can still watch the Titans' games, as they are streamed online.