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WWYDW(TE): Improving the Fanless Game Day Experience

Since we still have no idea what will happen with the 2019-20 season aside from the league continuing its best efforts to keep the dream alive, I wanted to take some time to talk about what hockey will look like when the NHL is safely able to get back on the ice. In this week’s What Would You Do Wednesday (Thursday Edition), I want to know what you think the NHL can do in an attempt to create some atmosphere and fan experience in a time when they’ll be playing to empty arenas.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen the Korean Baseball Organization, UFC, and Bundesliga get back to business without any fans in the stands it made me wonder what life will be like for the NHL when they’re safely able to do the same. If you’ve watched any fanless sports, you’ll already know that the atmosphere is (understandably) non-existent and the whole vibe is generally weird, which made me wonder if there’s anything that can be done to improve upon that. As much as I think it’s fun to hear what the players are saying to each other — having trash talk coming through the TV is actually something that excites me the most — I’m also someone that enjoys the ups and downs that come with having a crowd responding to what’s happening in front of them. Obviously, the rollercoaster of emotions that comes with being in attendance at a meaningful game can’t happen without anyone in the building, but I’m thinking we can put our heads together and come up with a few ideas that might help.

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Instead of empty seats, maybe the NHL could look at putting cardboard cutouts of a team’s fans in the stands like one German team is doing?

Supporters of Borussia Mönchengladbach, the German club that currently sits in fourth in the Bundesliga standings, have developed a novel oddball concept — one worth replicating around the world if coronavirus-era sporting events take place in empty stadiums and arenas in the coming weeks and months. For 19 euros, or some $20.60, fans of Borussia Mönchengladbach can purchase a cardboard cutout of their likeness, to be planted in the Borussia-Park home stadium seats during games.

Instead of static cardboard people, maybe we go full Home Alone and look at a series of pullies, levers, and model trains to move things around and make it seem like there’s a vibe happening?

On yesterday’s Nation Happy Hour, my crazy suggestion was that maybe now is the time to mic up the players to let us all hear a little bit of what’s going on out the ice, putting the broadcast on a 10-second delay to prevent/dump anything crazy from coming out on TV. Pretty good, right? Just think of how entertaining that would be! Baggedmilk, you’re brilliant! Mr. Katz, I’ll take a million dollars, please. Okay, so I know that leaving hot mics on the ice will never happen in a thousand earth years, but there’s no doubt that my dumb plan would certainly provide an interesting perspective on the game. Alright, so I’m just spitballing nonsense, which is basically all we can really do at this point, but I figured that we could probably come up with a few decent ideas between us if we got a conversation going.

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It goes without saying that playing hockey in front of empty arenas is going to be odd, but maybe this is an opportunity for the league to have some fun with the idea as Mönchengladbach is doing in Germany, and actually come up with some ideas that could make the game day experience more interesting. At the very least, I thought it would make for an interesting discussion. In this week’s What Would You Do Wednesday (Thursday Edition), I want to know if you have any ideas that the NHL should try as a means of making these games more interesting in terms of fan experience?

What say you, Nation?