The NHL has announced it will pause the 2019-20 campaign amid the coronavirus outbreak.
In a release, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said the decision came after “consulting with medical experts and convening a conference call of the Board of Governors,” at which point it was determined the campaign will be paused beginning with the 10 games slated for Thursday evening.
“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,” Bettman said in a release. “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.”
According to multiple reports, NHL teams that were scheduled to play road games will return home. In addition, after the NHL announced that all team-related activities had been called off Thursday morning, the league is keeping that mandate in place. Per TSN’s Darren Dreger, there will be no practices, meetings or league-related travel for NHL clubs “until further notice.”
However, the league does not at this time intend to cancel the remainder of the campaign. While the NHL will continue to monitor “all the appropriate medical advice” and encouraged players, staff and those in and around NHL organizations to take precautions, including self-quarantine, if necessary, Bettman said the “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 NHL’s decision comes not long after the NBA’s decision to suspend its campaign until further notice after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19, as Bettman indicated. The NBA said it will use the break from play to “determine next steps for moving forward in regard to the coronavirus pandemic.”
According to the most recent update from the United States’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there have been 1,215 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 36 deaths related to the virus in the country. In all, 42 states, as well as the District of Columbia, have confirmed cases of the virus. Washington and New York are the most affected states, reporting upwards of 200 cases each, closely followed by California, which has reported nearly 200 cases as of Thursday afternoon’s most recent count. Every state that plays home to an NHL franchise has confirmed cases of COVID-19.
Meanwhile, Health Canada has confirmed cases in Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec, and Manitoba Health Minister Cameron Friesen announced Thursday that the province has its first presumptive case of coronavirus. Those five provinces house the seven Canadian NHL teams.
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