Asst. Sports Director
Last week I had the unexpected pleasure of attending a Boston Bruins game at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. Attending a Bruins game has been on my bucket list for a while. I know, going to a Bruins game may sound like such a simple thing to do to be on a bucket list. However, game tickets are usually ridiculously expensive and sold out by diehard fans. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the traditions and operations of attending games which allowed me to fulfill one of my lifelong dreams.
The game was on a Thursday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins. With it being on a weekday, tickets were easily available. The pandemic has changed pricing of tickets with the organization wanting to sell as many as possible to make up for the loss of last year’s ticket sales. The two-ticket package my cousin and I purchased cost $324 with each one being $167. Pre-pandemic, the average ticket price for the 2019-2020 season was $250 for the Bruins, which was the third highest in the National Hockey League (NHL). Buying your seats is the first step in preparing for your visit to the arena.
After your purchase is confirmed, you are sent an email from the TD Garden asking you to fill out a form with guidelines and rules you need to abide by in order to attend the game. It of course asks questions about being symptomatic, if you were asked to quarantine and agreeing to wearing masks. It is essentially the same thing as the Rave Guardian App Rhode Island College students need to answer, fill out and present when entering any building on campus. Some of the things listed on the form include, wearing two masks, wearing a mask at all times in the arena unless eating or drinking, socially distancing and entering the arena at your designated entrance gate. The designated entrance gate is when things got very interesting upon arrival.
The way the arena has guests entering is by multiple entrances marked by numbered gates depending on where you are seated. With my cousin and I being in a mid-balcony, we entered at gate number three. When you walk through, you are greeted by a screener who checks your form completion to make sure you are safe to enter the arena. Upon approval, you then move on to the standard metal detector check to make sure you aren’t carrying any concealed weapons or hazardous items. Knowing Sydney Crosby was playing, it was smart to keep these practices in place. After that, you are then greeted by two gentlemen who tell you to “Stay safe, wear your masks and most importantly enjoy the game.” One of the men however was not wearing any type of face covering which I was stunned by. People could have walked by without wearing one, even though they were required. On the email form it tells you to wear two layers or two masks, but not one person checking the forms, attending the metal detectors or greeting you were wearing two masks. The two good samaritans my cousin and I are, we wore two layers at all times. The hypocrisy was stunning.
After climbing millions of stairs to get to our seating area, which the arena mocks you by having signs at the top of each stair case reading “Get a workout in and climb those stairs!”, we finally arrived at our humble abode. It was magical. The arena was practically empty, the lighting was perfect, it felt normal. As weird as that is to say, it did. Just taking in the scenery of the rink and being there at the place you watch multiple times a week on TV felt surreal. We took some photos having the whole row to ourselves and waited in our seats until the game began. Once it did, a video played, narrated by Massachusetts' own Denis Leary, telling you to maintain COVID Guidelines and to mask up. There were also people walking around each section of the arena seeing if anyone was violating any protocols (not wearing a mask, sitting somewhere they aren’t supposed to, etc.) The man patrolling our section was a skinny older man in about his 60s. He had a thick Boston accent and did his job to a tee. I felt bad since there was a group of five young guys around my age not wearing masks and being obnoxious. He walked up the stairs multiple times, sometimes leaping over chairs, holding a sign that read “Mask Up” and told the group of guys they needed to. They did not care. At the end of the game, little did they know he informed the personnel at the arena and they were told they were banned for the rest of the season for violating COVID protocols. It is great to see such efforts being made to make sure safety protocols are being taken seriously.
Since it is a sporting event of course, concessions were expected. The Garden has you download the “Hub App” which allows you to order your food from your seat and to pick it up at your designated concession stand, which is the one closest to your section. With paying before you get there and the food being ready in 10 minutes, it was simplistic and close to impossible finding a flaw in. So much so, it should be how future concessions operate even when the pandemic is over. When picking up my concession, they asked my name and handed me my order. The guy next to me at the concessions, a young Navy man, was wearing the same Brad Marchand jersey as me and fist bumped me. He even showed me photos of him meeting Marchand multiple times. I was jealous, to say the least, until the person who handed me my food revealed something to the young man and I. She was a close relative of Bruins’ defenseman Matt Grzelcyk. That was a perfect example of using the phrase “Only In Boston.” After that humbling experience, I chowed down on my $8 hot dog in a bun with no condiments and enjoyed every bite of it.
The Bruins lost and they looked the worst they had all season. After the game, they released people in sections row by row with someone directing them how to leave. With my cousin and I not knowing, we just got up and left since this person had not yet arrived. We stopped at the Pro Shop, with them following guidelines of masks and a certain number of people being allowed in at a time. We picked up our warm-up pucks, hopped on the train back and finished one of the best days of my life.
Overall, I applaud the Boston Bruins organization and the TD Garden for all of their hard work and systems in place to create the safest experience possible for fans. The 1,000 people in attendance made the arena look empty, but kept the noise/atmosphere the same as usual. It was a once in a lifetime experience to witness during the pandemic. The optimism and hope the experience provided makes me excited for the future of sporting events when they return to full capacity.