YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – It has been nearly 10 months since pandemic restrictions went into place. For sports fans, it has been a hard 10 months without watching their team in-person. That streak ended Friday night for Phantoms hockey fans as the Covelli Centre welcomed them back for the first time since March. But with their excitement, came new rules.
Phantoms fans are back where they belong.
“Oh my gosh, it’s amazing, it’s so exciting, I couldn’t contain it all day,” said season ticket holder Erica Baun, of Boardman.
Back in the stands cheering on the hockey team.
“I think this is the longest we’ve ever gone without some kind of live sporting event that we’ve gone to so it’s been kind of crazy,” Baun said.
And for the few season ticket holders we talked to, it was a relief to be back.
“I enjoy hockey so much and I just can’t stand sitting around anymore. To be able to get out and interact with everybody again is pretty nice,” said season ticket holder Jerry Deets, of Campbell.
But games do look a bit different now. Fans must social distance and wear a mask whenever they aren’t eating or drinking.
Still, we asked if this was a good idea with COVID-19 numbers rising.
“We did have approval from the state for 1,500 fans but we only open certain sections until we sell that many tickets,” said Arielle McNutt, director of marketing and media relations for the Phantoms.
For Friday’s game, they sold just under 500 tickets.
McNutt says the building is cleaned constantly throughout the game, and fans have been following the rules really well.
“I’m a little nervous but I’m not going to let it stop me. We figured we’d see how it goes tonight and I mean everything’s been great, everything seems clean, distancing. Everything’s been pretty good so far,” Baun said.
And even with new rules in place, the fans all agree they’re just happy to be back.
“They’ll wear their masks, they’ll sit away from their buddies just to stay safe so we can play hockey,” McNutt said.
“We love it. We love the sport, the camaraderie. Whether we can be beside each other or not we don’t care, we’re still going to cheer!” said season ticket holders Dylan and Cathy Mikina, from Youngstown.
More stories from WKBN.com: