NHL suspends season due to COVID-19 pandemic

The NHL has suspended its season immediately due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The league made the announcement Thursday afternoon.

The NHL advised all its clubs earlier in the day not to conduct morning skates, practices or team meetings amid efforts to contain the spread of novel coronavirus.

The move to suspend the NHL schedule came after the NBA announced the same measure last night following the revelation a Utah Jazz player tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

The NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets and San Jose Sharks said Wednesday they would play upcoming home dates behind closed doors and without fans after state and local officials instituted bans on large gatherings of people.

There were 10 games on Thursday’s NHL schedule, including matchups in Montreal, Toronto and Calgary.

If the NHL is eventually forced to go a step further and cancel the 2019-20 season and playoffs, it would mark the third time in its history the Stanley Cup hasn’t been awarded.

The Spanish flu forced the cancellation of the 1919 Cup final, while the entire 2004-05 campaign was lost to a lockout.

The NHL, NBA, Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer restricted access to locker-rooms earlier this week, including barring media, amid fears of spreading the virus.

Players and coaches instead spoke with reporters in adjacent media centres before and after games.

Sports leagues and tours around the world have either cancelled or postponed games and events as the coronavirus spreads. MLS suspended its season earlier Thursday.

The Swiss hockey league announced it has ended the season in the top two divisions before the playoffs. The decision comes less than two months before Switzerland is due to host the men’s world championships in Zurich and Lausanne.

Most people diagnosed with COVID-19 experience mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, and the vast majority of those who contract the virus recover. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, the risk to the general population is low.

But for some, including those 65 years of age and over, those with compromised immune systems or pre-existing conditions, the illness can be much more severe. Among the Canadians diagnosed with the illness, so far fewer than 15 per cent have required hospitalization.

The situation has changed drastically in North America in recent days.

Speaking at the NHL general managers meetings last week in Boca Raton, Fla., commissioner Gary Bettman said the league was closely monitoring the situation.

“We’re aware of what’s happening in other places in the world and we understand that things may evolve or change,” Bettman said on March 4. “We also understand that we’re going to have to react to it in a professional and timely and sensible basis.

“But I don’t think as we sit here today, people should get too far ahead of themselves.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 12, 2020.

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Follow @JClipperton_CP on Twitter

Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press

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