Devils welcome fans back as NJ arenas, stadiums open with limited capacity

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NEWARK — Goalies are no longer the only ones wearing masks at hockey games.  

Fans in attendance at the New Jersey Devils game against the New York Islanders Tuesday night at Prudential Center had to follow all the common COVID-19 protocols and a few sport-specific ones to get inside. But they say it’s a small price to pay to get back to normal life.

New Jersey is opening arenas at 10% capacity as the next step in the Garden State’s COVID recovery. For the Prudential Center, that means about 1,900 fans were welcome in for the first time in 357 days.

,Devils President Jake Reynolds was keeping count.

“This is a moment our staff and our fans have been looking forward to and working towards for quite some time,” Reynolds said.

In addition to the common protocols like masks and social distancing, fans were given specific gates and times for arrival to cut down on lines. Once inside, they were greeted by temperature checks and plenty of new hand sanitizers.

“Safety has been our number one focus, our number one concern, so when fans walk into this building, they feel as safe as possible,” said Reynolds.

Nuno Fernandez and his son Jake are season ticket holders who have been looking forward to seeing the Devils play in person again.

“Normally we’re about 10-15, times a year and we’re just super excited right now,” Nuno said.

“I like to watch them in real life, because it’s more fun for me,” added Jake.

After following all the protocols and quarantining over the past year, Nuno said he and his son needed to get out of the house. And with all the precautions in place at the Prudential Center, he said they felt safe enough to do it.

“The vaccines and the way their handling it. I mean, after a yea,r I think we’re all pretty much adapted and pretty much excited to break out of the shell right now,” Fernandez said.

Robert and Jeanette Roth said they weren’t going to miss the opportunity to attend the first game back. The couple agreed they would be happy regardless of the outcome on the ice, even if New Jersey was playing the rival Islanders.

“We are winners by coming back,” Robert said.

If you’re wondering about tickets, they’re sold out through the end of March. April games will go on sale at the end of the month.  

Reynolds is hopeful by then they’ll be able to fill the arena to 25% of capacity.

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