As the potential for a coronavirus outbreak continues to raise alarms in the United States, the NHL is implementing several precautions in response.
With more and more states reporting new cases and deaths, leagues with teams in the United States in Canada have been closely monitoring the situation. For the NHL, that has involved regular communication with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Health Canada, and now the league is rolling out a series of precautionary measures.
Among those measures, as detailed by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman on Wednesday, include a ban on overseas business travel for employees in the league office. Additionally, league office employees who take personal trips to affected countries are required to be quarantined out of office for two weeks once they return. These policies come at a delicate point for the NHL, which is winding down its regular season ahead of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs beginning next month. In his comments Wednesday, Bettman emphasized that the NHL views this as an evolving situation. More from NHL.com:
Asked about the NHL’s contingency plans, Commissioner Bettman said: “We’re aware of and focused on all possibilities, but at this point it would be premature to pick any one of the possibilities, especially because it may or may not become necessary in North America, which is why we’re staying current. We’re staying in communication with everyone appropriate, and we’ll deal with it if and when the time comes.”
Commissioner Bettman declined to speculate about what the CDC or Health Canada might say in the future. He also said the impact of the coronavirus might vary by location, with local officials determining what must be done in their area.
“We’re aware of what’s happening in other places in the world, and we understand that things may evolve or change, and we also understand that we’re going to have to react to it in a professional and timely and sensible basis,” Commissioner Bettman said. “But I don’t think, as we sit here today, people should get too far ahead of themselves in terms of how they either react to this or report this. Let’s see how it all evolves.”
Commissioner Bettman said the NHL has been advising teams on proper precautions.
Thus far among U.S.-based major sports leagues, some precautions have been implemented, including some fairly drastic measures around Major League Baseball spring training. In addition, there are moves being made in the United States to postpone travel and games because of concerns surrounding coronavirus, with Chicago State University cancelling games this week for its men’s and women’s basketball teams because of the spread of the virus.
Within the arena landscape, concerns over the coronavirus come at a particularly challenging time, as the NBA and NHL are both approaching their respective postseasons and several NCAA championships, including March Madness, are just around the corner. What has yet to be seen among the NBA and NHL is the cancellation of games or games played in empty arenas–as leagues in other countries have done–but, with the leagues prepared to evolve their approaches to the spread of coronavirus and the NCAA receiving calls to consider holding championships before empty venues, the notion of seeing such drastic measures in the near future cannot be entirely ruled out.
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