NHL suspends season due to coronavirus; other leagues pull back
As expected, the National Hockey League announced on Thursday afternoon that it is suspending the regular season due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In so doing, the league was following the lead of most other major sports organizations.
The NBA announced it was suspending its season on Wednesday after Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz tested positive for COVID-19 (the specific virus). And earlier on Thursday it was reported that Gobert’s teammate, Donovan Mitchell, had also tested positive. The Jazz played the Detroit Pistons at Little Caesars Arena this past Saturday, and, according to reports, all of the Pistons players are in self-quarantine.
Major League Baseball announced on Thursday that it will suspend spring training and will delay the start of the regular season will be delayed at least two weeks.
The NCAA announced the cancellation of all its remaining spring and winter championships, including its signature Men’s and Women’s basketball tournaments and the Frozen Four hockey championship, which had been scheduled for April 9-11 at LCA.
That announcement came after college basketball conferences the Big Ten, Atlantic Coast Conference, Big 12, PAC-12 and the Southeast Conference announced earlier Thursday the cancellations of their conference tournaments.
“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," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. “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."
The NHL regular season has 189 games remaining and was scheduled to end on April 4, with the Stanley Cup Playoffs beginning a few days after that.
“The decision to temporarily suspend play due to the COVID-19 pandemic is an appropriate course of action at this time,” the NHL Players Association said in a statement. “The NHLPA will continue to closely monitor this very dynamic situation and remain in daily discussions with the league, our medical consultants, and our players regarding all aspects of this matter.
“The players are looking forward to the opportunity to resume play in front of hockey fans everywhere.”
The Red Wings, who are way out of the playoff picture with the league’s worst record (17-49-5, 39 points), had 11 regular-season games left, four on home ice at Little Caesars Arena. The team was in Washington when the announcement was made Thursday, preparing for a scheduled game against the Capitals.
“Given the recent decision by the NHL to pause the season, all games are postponed until further notice,” the Red Wings announced on Twitter. “Plans are being developed for future games, and we will notify you as soon as we have information to share.”
A handful of European hockey leagues have already called off the remainder of their seasons.
“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," Bettman said. “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.”
The Stanley Cup has been awarded every year since 1893 with two exceptions: in 1919 when the final was cancelled after five games because of the Spanish flu outbreak, and in 2005 when the season was called off because of a lockout.
The International Ice Hockey Federation cancelled the Women’s World Championships, which were scheduled for Nova Scotia in late March, a few days ago.