In recent days, Sweden’s top league, the SHL, appeared defiant in the face of the coronavirus outbreak, announcing only that it would push back the beginning of its post-season. However, as league’s throughout Europe and across the globe, including the NHL, AHL and ECHL, chose to either suspend our outright cancel the remainder of their campaigns, the SHL announced Saturday that it is requesting the Swedish Ice Hockey Association abandon the 2019-20 season.
In a release Saturday, the SHL announced the league, along with each of its 14 clubs, have come to an agreement that would see the rest of the season nixed and no champion named this season. Per a translation of the statement, SHL president Michael Marchal said that the agreement has been made after taking into account the instructions of authorities and the health and safety of players, coaches, staff and on-ice officials, as well as in the interest of limiting the spread of the coronavirus.
“Hockey should be played with the public and when it is not possible to perform and even the teams can risk being infected and stand for further spread of infection, we see no other decision than to suspend the season,” Marchal said.
As the Swedish Ice Hockey Association is the league’s governing body, it will have to sign off on the request in order for the remainder of the campaign to be cancelled. The league stated that a decision from the association is expected Sunday. The SHL also noted that the decision to cancel other tiers of play in Sweden, including second-tier HockeyAllsvenskan, falls to the Swedish Ice Hockey Association.
If the SHL season is not completed – and it appears that will be the case – it will mark the first time since 1951-52 that Sweden’s top-flight competition has not crowned a champion. That season was scrapped as a result of pre-Olympic preparations. Prior, Sweden’s first league didn’t crown champions in 1949 and 1939. The former was cancelled as Sweden’s best prepared for the World Championship. The latter was postponed and became a fall tournament.
“It is a difficult time around the world and we in Swedish ice hockey may be a small part of a much larger context of the issue, but we also know what hockey means to a lot of people and we have seen that very clearly in recent days,” Marchal said. “We and our clubs cannot thank enough for the commitment we have seen and continue to see, and it pains to set the rest of the season, but people and health always (come) first.”
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