The NHL has officially announced it is pausing its 2019-20 season amidst the coronavirus crisis, coming on the heels of a similar action by the NBA.
Declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization, coronavirus—or COVID-19—is raising alarms around the United States as more and more cases and deaths are reported. This has affected collegiate and professional sports around the country, including the NBA, which announced Wednesday that it was suspending its season indefinitely after revealing that a player on the Utah Jazz–identified in other press reports as Rudy Gobert–preliminarily tested positive for COVID-19.
The NHL has ultimately taking a similar action, pausing its season beginning with Thursday night’s games, with an announcement issued Thursday including a statement from commissioner Gary Bettman:
“In light of ongoing developments resulting from the coronavirus, and after consulting with medical experts and convening a conference call of the Board of Governors, the National Hockey League is announcing today that it will pause the 2019‑20 season beginning with tonight’s games.
“The NHL has been attempting to follow the mandates of health experts and local authorities, while preparing for any possible developments without taking premature or unnecessary measures. However, following last night’s news that an NBA player has tested positive for coronavirus – and given that our leagues share so many facilities and locker rooms and it now seems likely that some member of the NHL community would test positive at some point – it is no longer appropriate to try to continue to play games at this time.
“We will continue to monitor all the appropriate medical advice, and we will encourage our players and other members of the NHL community to take all reasonable precautions – including by self-quarantine, where appropriate. Our goal is to resume play as soon as it is appropriate and prudent, so that we will be able to complete the season and award the Stanley Cup. Until then, we thank NHL fans for your patience and hope you stay healthy.”
Leading up to Thursday’s announcement, several NHL teams had already had their plans altered by policies put into place by public health officials and elected leaders in response to the ongoing coronavirus crisis. The San Jose Sharks were planning to play three remaining March home games in front of an empty SAP Center, making that decision after Santa Clara County instituted a ban on mass gatherings of 1,000 people or more through the end of this month. The Columbus Blue Jackets had already stated that fans would not be allowed into Nationwide Arena for a Thursday game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, a decision announced Wednesday to comply with a forthcoming ban on mass gatherings in Ohio
The NBA, NHL, and developmental NBA G League have all announced suspensions to their seasons. Suspensions of at least 30 days to professional soccer seasons have been announced by MLS and Division II USL Championship. In addition, several collegiate conferences have either cancelled basketball championships or closed them off from the public, and the NCAA will stage winter championships before empty arenas. With the situation very much evolving, more announcements from other professional sports leagues are expected to follow.
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