ST. PAUL -- There was about six feet of space separating Minnesota Wild interim coach Dean Evason from members of the media following Wednesday’s practice at TRIA Rink.
It was a similar setup during interviews for veteran center Eric Staal and dynamic winger Kevin Fiala.
Such is life now that sports leagues across the country have started to adapt new regulations as a way to combat the coronavirus crisis.
“It’s hard to not see it,” Evason said. “Whenever we turn on the TV, radio, newspaper, whatever, we see it. It’s a scary thing, obviously, in our world today. We are just going to follow protocol and whatever is asked of us.”
As of Wednesday’s practice, that meant no locker-room access for members of the media. Instead, interviews will be conducted in designated, open locations.
For the Wild and the rest of the NHL, that seems like the tip of the iceberg, especially following Wednesday’s unprecedented announcement that the NCAA basketball tournament will be played without fans in attendance.
Some other examples include the University of Minnesota deciding to cancel classes until at least April 1, and the Golden State Warriors announcing they plan to play home games in an empty arena.
What does this mean for the Wild? That remains to be seen.
“We wash our hands all the time and we have sanitizer going all the time,” Evason said. “That’s not changed.”
In the meantime, the Wild are trying their best to focus on their a playoff push in the Western Conference, not the coronavirus crisis.
“I don’t think the guys are worried about it,” Staal said. “If we start playing in front of nobody, that’s going to feel a little different. I’m not sure where it’s headed. Not really thinking about that too much.”
As for the Xcel Energy Center, specifically, regular operations will go on as planned, with updates being provided when new information becomes available.
According to a statement posted on the Xcel Energy Center website, building staff already has increased cleaning protocols, including more frequent wiping and disinfecting of touch points (door handles, elevator buttons, handrails, restroom stall doors and sinks). There also will be hand sanitizer stations in the main lobby, all entry gates and outside restrooms.
Asked what it would be like playing in an empty building, Evason tried his best to sidestep the question.
“Our fans are phenomenal,” he said. “They give us energy each and every night, and I’m sure a lot of teams feel the exact same way. If it happens, it’s something that everyone’s going to have to work through. Hopefully, it doesn’t get to that.”