The National Hockey League has officially suspended play due to the potential threat of COVID-19. On Thursday, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, in cooperation with the NHL Board of Governors, has determined that the 2019-20 NHL season will be put on hold, effective immediately. The American Hockey League has also followed suit.
This news comes on the heels of the National Basketball Association’s decision to abruptly halt the 2019-20 NBA season following the Wednesday evening discovery that Utah Jazz all-star Rudy Gobert had contracted coronavirus. The league immediately shut down play, with players undergoing set quarantine scenarios. Later Thursday morning, Gobert’s fellow all-star teammate Donovan Mitchell was diagnosed as the second NBA player with COVID-19.
In a joint conference call between all 31 of the NHL’s Board of Governors alongside Bettman, a unanimous decision was made to put the season on hold, while the significance of the spread of the illness continues to loom within North America. Major League Baseball is also expected to follow suit.
The NHL released the following statement Thursday afternoon:
“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.”
“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.”
Reports indicate that all NHL teams have been contacted and asked to provide arena availability from March through the end of July, indicating that the regular season will, in turn, continue following a period of down time. Despite the typical demands of daily team and individual workouts, skates, meetings and practices, players on each of the NHL’s 31 teams have been advised to stay home and take care of their physical health in clean, private locations.
Just Wednesday, the decision was made by the San Jose Sharks and Columbus Blue Jackets to host home games during the month of March in front of empty seats, as local health authorities implemented bans on large gatherings of people upwards of 250 individuals. Only necessary team staff, local and traveling media and arena staff were expected to be in attendance. That is no longer of relevance now, as the the season has been put on hold.