The Sharks could be returning to San Jose sooner than initially believed.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Monday that the state would be lifting the regional stay-at-home order, in effect since Dec. 3, which could allow for contact sports to resume in Santa Clara County. The state's decision comes as projections for ICU capacity in the Bay Area will reach above 15 percent in four weeks, the threshold previously established for lifting the order.
The Sharks released a statement Monday afternoon, indicating that the team is "encouraged" by the decision.
“We were encouraged to see new health directives issued today, which provide a roadmap to allow contact sports to resume in Santa Clara County. We are reviewing the directive in hope that we can bring our players and staff home as soon as possible. Furthermore, we will continue to offer our support to the County in their efforts against the pandemic.”
Santa Clara County's ban on contact sports forced the Sharks to hold training camp in Scottsdale, Ariz., and the team announced over the weekend that the Sharks would be playing the first two "home" games on the schedule at Gila River Arena in Glendale, Ariz., the home of the Arizona Coyotes.
Sharks coach Bob Boughner told reporters Monday that the team remains unsure how the schedule will be impacted by the announcement, but that his players are "buzzing."
Santa Clara County counsel told The Bay Area News Group's Curtis Pashelka on Monday that the Sharks potentially could return to play games at SAP Center "if they're adhering to the new directive."
The NHL front-loaded the Sharks' schedule with road games in the hopes that the team would be able to eventually play in San Jose, as the team's first scheduled home game of the season won't be until Feb. 1 against the Vegas Golden Knights.
If the Sharks end up sticking with the plan to play on Feb. 1 and Feb. 3 in Arizona against Vegas, the team's next chance to make their season debut at SAP Center would be Feb. 13, when the Anaheim Ducks are scheduled to play back-to-back games against the Sharks.