The Columbus Blue Jackets’ long awaited return to Nationwide Arena will happen in a mostly-empty building.
The Blue Jackets host the Tampa Bay Lighting Thursday in the club’s first true home game in nearly a year, but there will be no fans in attendance because of coronavirus restrictions.
It’s a rematch of last season’s playoff series where the Lighting ousted the Jackets in five games. The Lighting went on to win the Stanley Cup.
Columbus joined other teams last March in postponing the season as the emerging pandemic took hold. The team returned to play in an expanded playoff tournament held in a “bubble”-style environment last August.
Thursday’s game is Columbus’ home opener after the club played its first four games of the season in Nashville and Detroit.
“While the season will begin without fans in attendance at Nationwide Arena, there are a number of promotions planned to allow fans at home to celebrate team accomplishments during both home and road games throughout the year,” reads a team statement.
The Blue Jackets have requested but not received permission from the Ohio Department of Health to have a limited number of fans in attendance at home games. The state has allowed limited attendance at Columbus Crew, Cleveland Browns, Cleveland Cavaliers and Cincinnati Bengals games.