The Jets had a chance to sweep the Edmonton Oilers in their first-round playoff series and hockey fans were eager to show their excitement — even if they couldn't be in the arena.
where they've basically got full barns, or at least a lot of fans," the Jets defenceman said.
"Those games are a lot more fun to watch than games without any fans in the building.".
With a win in Game 5 over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday, the Montreal Canadiens earned a trip home to play in front of 2,500 fans after Quebec loosened COVID-19 restrictions.
The 2021 NHL season has shown how much of an impact fans can have on games, said Catherine Sabiston, a professor in the University of Toronto's faculty of kinesiology and physical education.
"The play feels faster, it feels more animated, you can tell that the players are reacting to the noise of the fans," said Sabiston, who also holds a Canada Research Chair in physical activity and mental health.
"And then you turn to the Canadian playoffs and of course there’s no fans in the stands.
Pittsburgh Penguins coach Mike Sullivan noticed the difference when about 9,000 fans were allowed in PPG Paints Arena for Game 1 against the New York Islanders earlier this month.
The building was "going crazy," said Penguins defenceman Mike Matheson.
Playing in front of a live audience gives athletes a sense of purpose that just isn't there with fake noise piped in over a sound system, Sabiston said.
Howard Njoo, Canada's deputy chief public health officer said on May 18 that allowing fans into games is not under "serious consideration.".
"I would say if you look at that timing and what's the schedule for the NHL playoffs, which is taking place right now and into the summer months, it's not really something that's under serious consideration in terms of fans in the stands, just based on where we are with our vaccination campaign at this point," he said.
Another factor to keep an eye on as people return to live sporting events is how connected fans feel to their teams, said Sabiston.
Schellenberg and his colleagues had fans fill out surveys to gauge how they were feeling during the hiatus, what they were doing to cope, and how they were filling their free time.
“It does show that there’s a consistent relationship between the extent to which someone’s obsessed with being a fan and how distressed they are when their favourite sport is cancelled or suspended for some reason," Schellenberg said.
"Even if there’s no fans in the stands, I think having games played that people can sit and watch and escape from the world for a few hours, I don’t think that’s frivolous to give people an outlet.”.
Having people in the building adds to the energy level, said Winnipeg Jets coach Paul Maurice, and in an empty rink, it's harder to shift a game's momentum — especially in the playoffs
People living in the city's core probably weren't enthused about the timing, with the revelry coming around 3 a.m., said Jets defenceman Josh Morrissey