Following in the NBA’s footsteps, the NHL has decided to suspend its regular season over coronavirus concerns.
It is unclear when or if the 2019-20 campaign will resume.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman made the announcement Thursday, a day after the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a pandemic. The NBA also announced it was suspending its season on Wednesday after a player on the Utah Jazz tested positive for the virus. A second player was confirmed to have the virus the next day.
The NHL doesn’t yet have a confirmed case, but there is a massive overlap between the two leagues and the virus is highly communicable.
The NHL pauses the 2019-20 season. pic.twitter.com/bCi776ZFqX
— NHL (@NHL) March 12, 2020
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) March 12, 2020
The NHL cancelled morning skates and practices Thursday, and reportedly told teams to start working with their buildings to find dates to host games into July.
At this point, there has to be genuine concern about the NHL’s ability to crown a Stanley Cup champion. The Stanley Cup has only seen two seasons where it wasn’t awarded: In 2004-05, because of a year-long lockout, and 1918-19, because of the Spanish flu.
There is still some hope — faint as it may be — that some portion of the season or playoffs can be salvaged even if it means playing games into the summer. That’s the best-case scenario now and it will be entirely dependent on the spread of COVID-19.
Even if that happens, there will be a negative impact on everything from the amount of escrow paid by players to the salary cap the league operates under next season, but neither of those things trump public safety in the face of a global pandemic.
The league was stopped with 1,082 of 1,271 regular-season games in the books — slightly more than 85 per cent of the schedule.
Several hockey leagues in Europe have already scrapped their playoffs.