The evolving nature of the coronavirus pandemic continues to affect professional hockey, with the NHL and minor-league AHL both facing suspensions that will last months.
Ever since last week, there have been continual adjustments to plans for professional sports leagues as coronavirus, or COVID-19, continues to spread in the United States and Canada. Last Thursday, both the NHL and AHL announced suspensions to their seasons. Since then, it has become apparent that the ongoing response to coronavirus will require leagues across professional sports to go through extended periods of inaction, especially on the heels of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation that organizers cancel events of 50 or more people over the next eight weeks amidst thepandemic.
For the NHL and NHL Players’ Association, the latest adjustment calls for players to self-isolate through March 27. At this point, the timeline for when it could resume play remains unknown, though with the league not expecting to provide guidelines for the potential resumption of team practices for another 45 days, the NHL is facing a shutdown of its season that could last well into May, if not longer. More from the AP:
The league and NHL Players’ Association told players Monday they can go home — even outside of North America — and must self-isolate through March 27 while the season is on hold. But the NHL also cautioned that it will not be able to even provide guidance on the potential reopening of team practices for another 45 days, which could push any potential return to play into May.
The new directives come on the heels of the CDC’s recommendation against gatherings of 50 or more people in the U.S. for the next eight weeks. The NHL said “depending on world developments,” consideration will be given to reopening facilities after the self-quarantine period ends in late March but practices for the 31 teams would not happen late April — at the earliest.
“I think in light of the CDC recommendations, it’s hard to foresee that we’re looking at much happening here in March or even April, in my opinion,” NHL player agent Jay Grossman said.
That’s a major switch from Friday, when the league held out the possibility of players being able to return to team facilities and working out and skating in small groups.
Meanwhile, the AHL announced Monday that it will not lift its suspension before May, while calling on its teams to take initiatives to return players to their primary residences. The AHL playoffs were originally scheduled to begin on April 13.
The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has already led to cancelled professional hockey seasons in the United States, with the ECHL and SPHL both announcing the ends of their seasons last week.
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