NHL temporarily suspends 2019-20 season due to coronavirus concerns

COLUMBUS, OH - JANUARY 24: A general view of the NHL logo prior to the 2015 Honda NHL All-Star Skills Competition at the Nationwide Arena on January 24, 2015 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
COLUMBUS, OH - JANUARY 24: A general view of the NHL logo prior to the 2015 Honda NHL All-Star Skills Competition at the Nationwide Arena on January 24, 2015 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

The NHL will join the NBA in suspending their season due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, effective immediately.

The NHL will become the third professional sports league in the United States to suspend their season following concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. The decision was made about the NHL’s 2019-20 season on Thursday afternoon, as the league hosted a board call at 1 p.m. ET to discuss the situation, according to TSN’s Darren Dreger.

The decision comes less than 24 hours after the NBA’s shocking move to suspend their season after Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz tested positive for the virus on Wednesday night. On Thursday, the MLS opted to suspend their season indefinitely due to coronavirus concerns.

Here is the NHL’s statement in full on the temporary suspension:

"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 posted a statement on Wednesday stating that the league was aware of the NBA’s decision, and would make their own on Thursday before 10 hockey games are set to be played by the league that evening.

On Thursday, the NHL opted to cancel all morning skates, practices and team meetings ahead of the league’s decision. Wednesday night’s games went on as scheduled despite the news of the NBA’s season suspension, though earlier in the day both the Columbus Blue Jackets and the San Jose Sharks opted to restrict attendance at their home games for the foreseeable future.

All signs pointed to a season suspension by the NHL, given the actions taken by the league Thursday morning ahead of the board meeting. This situation, however, has escalated so rapidly that it was only a few weeks ago that NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told reporters that the league was operating “business as usual” with a slight overseas travel ban in place for anywhere outside of North America at the time.

Since then, however, the hockey world has seen massive cancelations across the world. Hockey leagues in Germany and Austria have canceled their seasons due to the coronavirus, while various international tournaments have been canceled and the NWHL has postponed their 2020 Isobel Cup Final in the five-team league.

The NHL had previously opted to close dressing rooms to the media alongside the NBA, MLB and MLS in an effort to contain the virus, while urging teams to frequently wash their hands and teleconference to meetings where possible.

The coronavirus first emerged in December 2019 in the city of Wuhan, China. To date, more than 90,000 cases have been confirmed worldwide, with the virus being identified in more than 70 countries, including the United States. The virus spreads similarly to influenza, with sneezing and coughing as the primary vectors of infection.

On Jan. 30, the World Health Organization declared the virus a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern.” In order to contain the spread of the virus, countries around the world have implemented travel bans, curfews and quarantines.

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For more information about COVID-19, visit the CDC’s website or the website for your state’s Department of Health.