The outbreak of coronavirus has resulted in the postponement of European post-seasons, cancellation of International Ice Hockey Federation events and the closing of dressing rooms to non-essential personnel throughout North American professional sports. But the NHL may now be facing the potential postponement or relocation of a handful of games, if not more, as the result of the Santa Clara County’s decision to issue a ban on mass gatherings.
Late Monday, Santa Clara County, which is home to the San Jose Sharks, announced in a release that a mandatory order has been issued by the Public Health Officer that requires “the cancellation of mass gatherings in the County.” The order comes into effect as of midnight Wednesday and will remain in place through the remainder of March. As such, three Sharks home dates stand to be impacted by the ban: March 19 vs. the Montreal Canadiens, March 21 vs. the Boston Bruins and March 29 vs. the Arizona Coyotes. San Jose also has two early April home dates on the schedule against the Dallas Stars on April 2 and Anaheim Ducks on April 4.
In a statement released by the team Monday evening, the Sharks announced they are aware of the ban and “will adhere to the mandated guidelines.” The statement continued by saying the organization “will be reviewing each scheduled event due to take place for the rest of the month and provide an update in the coming days.”
The NHL has not yet released a statement.
If the trio of Sharks home games are impacted, there are several options for the NHL, former Sportsnet analyst John Shannon indicated. Among the possibilities are playing the games in the visitors’ arena or at a neutral site, postponing the contests and rescheduling the outings or, as teams throughout the sporting world in Europe have done in recent weeks, play in an empty arena.
As of Monday, there were confirmations of six new cases of coronavirus (COVID-19), a total of 43 cases throughout the county and the Public Health Department announced the county had seen its first death from the virus, an adult woman in her 60s.
“This is a critical moment in the growing outbreak of COVID-19 in Santa Clara County. The strong measures we are taking today are designed to slow the spread of disease,” said Santa Clara County Health Officer, Dr. Sara Cody, in a release. “Today’s order and new recommendations will reduce the number of people who develop severe illness and will help prevent our healthcare system from becoming overwhelmed. This is critically important for anyone with healthcare needs, not just those most vulnerable to serious illness from COVID-19.”
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