The San Jose Sharks will play their first two home games of the NHL season at Gila River Arena, home of the Arizona Coyotes, due to a ban on contact sports in Santa Clara County.

The Sharks’ games against the Vegas Golden Knights on February 1 and 3 will be held at Gila River Arena, which is located more than 700 miles away from the team’s SAP Center home.

The Sharks will partner with Gila River Arena and the Coyotes to facilitate the games and will serve as the home team for both fixtures. It is unclear whether fans will be able to attend the games.

The Sharks’ next set of home games are scheduled for February 13 and 15, with the location of these fixtures to be announced at a future date.

Sharks president Jonathan Becher said: “We feel that we have put significant precautions in place, including daily COVID-19 testing of the athletes and support staff, to allow for us to safely return to play games at SAP Center, while not exposing the community to any additional health risk.

“In our discussions with County officials over the past several months, we have shared our detailed return-to-play plans and are hopeful that we can find practical solutions to this difficult situation very soon.”

The Coyotes earlier this month became the first NHL team to welcome fans since the COVID-19 outbreak, although the move was labelled “incredibly risky” by a local health expert. The Coyotes’ game against the Sharks was attended by 2,274 fans and ended in a 4-3 defeat for the home team.

Contact sports have been banned in Santa Clara County since the end of November. The ban forced the NFL’s 49ers to play home games away from Levi’s Stadium, with the team reaching an agreement with the Arizona Cardinals to play at State Farm Stadium instead.

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