The San Jose Sharks will hold training camp at Ice Den in Scottsdale, Arizona, beginning Dec. 31 because current health restrictions related to COVID-19 in Santa Clara County, California, include a ban on contact sports.The NHL and NHL Players’ Association formally reached agreement Sunday to play a 56-game regular season schedule starting Jan. 13, 2021, and ending May 8.
The Sharks are among the seven teams allowed to start training camp as early as Dec. 31 because they were not part of the Return to Play Plan last season. Formal training camps open Jan. 3.
“It hasn’t been easy,” general manager Doug Wilson said Sunday. “We’re very sensitive to our community and our fanbase and even the county making sure that this situation, while it hasn’t been easy on anyone, we’re not the only business that has had to make adjustments in their operations. I think the county officials are doing what they think is in the best interest of our communities, and we certainly respect that. It’s our hope that we get to a place where we can get our team back to San Jose and the Bay Area for the start of the regular season, but a lot of those things are out of our hands, so we’ll continue to stay in contact with the county as we go through that.”
The Sharks will have all their players, coaches and support staff arrive in Scottsdale on Dec. 30, and they will be staying at a hotel that is five minutes from Ice Den. Wilson said some players coming from outside of San Jose will go directly from their offseason homes to Scottsdale.
The Arizona Coyotes have held training camps at Ice Den, another reason the Sharks chose the facility.
“We will have all the amenities that we need,” Wilson said.
The Sharks are still exploring options for where they would play their home games if they are not allowed to host them at SAP Center in San Jose at the start of the regular season, Wilson said.
It’s possible the Sharks will start the season playing home games in a hub city or another NHL city. But Wilson said it’s not yet determined largely because the Sharks have not seen their schedule. It’s likely that the Sharks will start the season with a batch of road games to buy more time for the possibility that SAP Center becomes a viable option.
“We’ve been working with the schedule makers to align some type of schedule that responds to what our needs are,” Wilson said.
The San Jose Barracuda, the Sharks’ American Hockey League affiliate, could face the same issue of holding training camp and playing home games outside of Santa Clara County. The Sharks are exploring potential options for the Barracuda too, Wilson said.
The AHL has announced it will start its regular season schedule Feb. 5.
“Do I feel in my heart having listened to health officials and medical people that the light is at the end of the tunnel there? I do,” Wilson said. “We feel that we will be back in our community practicing and playing games, we just don’t know when.”