NHL Suspends Season Amid Coronavirus Concerns

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistMarch 12, 2020

National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman speaks to members of the media , Saturday, March 7, 2020, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced an indefinite postponement of the 2019-20 season Thursday amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"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."

The NHL held a conference call at 1 p.m. ET Thursday after the league advised teams to cancel all activities earlier in the day. No timetable has been given for a potential resumption of play.

The NHL joins a growing list of sports organizations that have either canceled or postponed events. The NBA postponed its season Wednesday night after a Utah Jazz player tested positive for coronavirus. Major League Soccer, the ATP and most college basketball conference tournaments announced postponements or cancellations Thursday.

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The NCAA is, as of publication, planning to play the 2020 men's and women's championship tournaments without fans. The PGA also announced plans to continue playing events without fan attendance.

"You understand that this is a world health crisis, but we have never gone through anything like this and nothing that has affected the game like this," Edmonton Oilers coach Dave Tippett said. "You understand when you are going through lockouts and things like that, that there is a business part of the game, but this is a health part of the game, a life part of the game. It affects everybody, not just hockey or sports. It's a turbulent time in the world and we will just have to deal with it as it comes."

There have been more than 124,500 documented cases of the coronavirus worldwide, including more than 1,200 in the United States. Thirty-nine people have died in the U.S. 

President Donald Trump announced Wednesday that the United States is barring European foreign nationals from entering the country for the next 30 days beginning Friday.