Michigan’s Big Ten Tournament semifinal game on Sunday against Ohio State at Nationwide Arena in Columbus will be held without fans in a precautionary measure to limit the spread of COVID-19.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine is expected to announce an order limiting spectators at all sporting events in the state within the next 24-36 hours, which includes the Wolverines’ game on Sunday. This move adds force to DeWine’s recommendation from Tuesday that large gatherings be limited or eliminated.
The Big Ten also released a statement Wednesday evening announcing they’ll be limiting attendance at all remaining conference competitions.
“Yeah, it’s worrisome,” senior forward Will Lockwood said. “I don’t want our season to come to an end. I really hope it doesn’t. I hope it doesn’t get to that point. Obviously there’s a reason they’re doing it, there’s a reason they’re taking precautions.”
As teams around the country are suspending their seasons — Harvard and Yale have both pulled out of their ECAC Tournament quarterfinal series, ending their seasons — Michigan is faced with a great deal of uncertainty. At this point, it’s unclear what’s going to happen in the coming days — as this story was written, the NBA went from playing games on Wednesday night to the season being suspended indefinitely.
It’s a rapidly developing situation, but as of Wednesday night, the Big Ten hockey tournament is set to go ahead, though all remaining games will be played without fans.
“I hope we get to play,” Michigan coach Mel Pearson said. “That’s all I wish. It doesn’t matter if it’s in Nationwide in front of nobody or it’s full. We’re on a mission. We’re going somewhere. They just happen to be our next opponent. Like I said, doesn’t matter if we have to create our own atmosphere and intensity, we can do that.”
As for playing in a completely empty arena, the Wolverines are looking at it as a positive. They may have to create their own energy, but the arena also won’t be filled with opposing fans.
“I honestly think it works to our advantage a little bit,” Lockwood said. “They won’t be able to have a home crowd advantage and have their fans there, not that it’s really impacted us. We’ve been pretty good on the road this year, but it’s something we can’t really focus on too much.”
Added Pearson: “We know it’s a huge challenge, but it’s a great opportunity for us and that’s how we’re approaching it. There’s so many things you can’t control. … We’re just focusing on being ready and being able to control our own destiny. That’s all you can ask for in sports.”