By Joseph Burkhard, Delta Daley, Brandon Kurzawski, and Kevin Turcovsky

COVID was not part of the game-plan for the Penguins, but many fans said they remain optimistic about the team’s chances.

“I think they’re all young and healthy enough to handle it, and they’ll come out of it strong in the end,” says Rich, who is from Uniontown.

After months of strict COVID-19 protocols in sports stadiums, the NHL has become more relaxed this season for both the average hockey fan and vaccinated professional hockey players as well. Hockey teams are still dealing with covid outbreaks, and the Pittsburgh Penguins have been one of the hardest hit teams. Despite the adversity with COVID-19 cases in the Penguins locker room, many fans have been keeping a positive attitude.

“As soon as it’s gone, I think it will be all right,” said Michael Garczynski, an accountant from Cranberry Township. “They’ll recover and everyone will be healthy and everything will be good to go.”

While most fans seem to be optimistic, some are not convinced that everything will be smooth skating. With star players such as Sidney Crosby, Marcus Petterson, Chad Ruhwedel, Jeff Carter, Brian Dumoulin, and even head coach Mike Sullivan falling victim to the virus, some feel that arena protocols should be reinstated.

“I think that they’re going to take more security protocols because of it,” said Nick Ryba, a sales operation analysis from Chicago. “I think that if they do tighten their security protocols, it will hurt their overall performance and lessen the fanbase. I think all of the protocols should’ve been kept just to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

The Penguins are 4-3-4 this season bottoming out in a tight Metropolitan Division that has teams only a game or two away from each other. The Pens are one of the leading teams for injuries/absences in the league.