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NHL postpones season due to coronavirus pandemic

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The season has been paused for what the league hopes is “a short time”.

Jamie Kellner

The NHL season is on hiatus until further notice, the league announced Thursday afternoon after a conference call with the Board of Governors.

The league will not play games beginning tonight and continuing indefinitely, commissioner Gary Bettman announced in a statement Thursday afternoon. The revelation that Oklahoma City Thunder forward Rudy Gobert was diagnosed with COVID-19 last night sent shockwaves through professional sports, with the NBA immediately suspending their season. With the NHL largely sharing the same facilities as NBA teams, the possibility existed of a significant exposure to the coronavirus, and although no NHL players have tested positive at this time the league could not afford to wait for what seemed an inevitability.

The NHLPA issued a brief statement soon after the NHL’s announcement calling the suspension of the season “an appropriate course of action at this time.”

Earlier today, Frank Seravalli of TSN reported that the league had asked teams to provide arena availability dates through the end of July, and Bettman’s statement indicates that the league will attempt to resume games as soon as “reasonable and prudent.” There is no indication, however, of when or if games will resume, and if so at what time.

The release from the league is below.

National Hockey League Pauses 2019-20 Season

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.

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.

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. 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. Until then, we thank NHL fans for your patience and hope you stay healthy.


11:50 a.m.: Three big developments in the past few minutes. First, Adam Gold says that a source informs him the Hurricanes are packing up their bags in New Jersey on the assumption that tonight’s game will be postponed. Second, Frank Seravalli of TSN reports, via a source, that the league has asked teams to provide arena availability dates through the end of July. Third, the Big Ten and the American Athletic Conference have outright canceled their conference tournaments. The ACC has not followed suit at this time, and the first game is still scheduled to begin at 12:30.


11:30 a.m.: Major League Soccer has announced that it is suspending its season immediately and until further notice. It seems highly likely the NHL will follow suit within the next few hours.


9:40 a.m.: The Hurricanes were not scheduled to skate this morning, and now Mike Morreale of NHL.com reports that the Devils have cancelled their morning skate as well. It seems that we are now in a holding pattern until the Board of Governors call this afternoon.


Update Thursday 9:00 a.m.: Darren Dreger of TSN reports that the NHL’s Board of Governors will hold a call at 1:00 today. Presumably, that means we will not have a call either way on the fate of the rest of the season before then, and teams that are scheduled to play tonight will almost certainly hold previously planned morning skates today. The feeling around most of the hockey media is that the season will be suspended, but that is far from official.


Update Wednesday 10:15 p.m.: On the heels of the NBA season being suspended following a positive coronavirus test from Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert, the NHL on Wednesday night issued a brief statement announcing that the league remains in consultation with medical experts to evaluate its options, but has not suspended operations. The league will provide a further update on Thursday.


PNC Arena, the home of the Carolina Hurricanes, will operate under normal conditions at the present time, the arena announced in a statement today.

The arena, in conjunction with the NHL, will continue to monitor the impact of the COVID-19 illness caused by the coronavirus. According to the statement, any changes made to arena operations will be made on an event-by-event basis. Earlier this week, the National Hockey League along with three other major sports leagues announced that only essential team personnel would be allowed inside locker rooms, and media availabilities would be held at a designated location outside the locker room.

The World Health Organization officially designated the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic on Wednesday. Generally speaking, the NHL and NBA have avoided any major changes to game operations based off recommendations from local officials. Only when the recommendations have escalated to the level of a directive have the leagues made changes, generally by announcing that games would be played behind closed doors.

The Hurricanes echoed the arena’s announcement with a brief statement:

Seven residents of North Carolina have tested positive for the coronavirus, including at least five people in the Triangle. Area schools have cancelled field trips and limited visitors, and many businesses have encouraged their employees to work at home until further notice.

The release from the arena is below. This article will be updated as events warrant.

STATEMENT FROM PNC ARENA

The health and safety of our guests, employees, vendors, partners, players and performers is of the utmost importance. We are monitoring information regarding the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the NC Department of Public Safety Division of Emergency Management (NCDPS) as well as Wake County Emergency Management.

There have been no scheduling changes for PNC Arena events at this time. Any changes moving forward would be on an event-by-event basis.

Though we have standard protocols to support health and safety for all events, we are implementing additional measures to further support preventative actions. We have increased the scope and frequency of cleaning throughout the venue, installed additional hand sanitizer dispensers, as well as signage to remind guests to frequently wash their hands.

In accordance with CDC guidelines, we would like to remind all guests to…

* Stay home when you are sick.
* Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue, throw the tissue in the trash.
* Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
* Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

We will continue to review updates and recommendations from the respective health and public safety organizations.