'No longer appropriate': NHL 'pauses' league due to coronavirus pandemic
The NHL has become the latest sports body to temporarily halt operations in an attempt to curb the spread of Covid-19, in what has been a staggering day for the global sports calendar.
NHL officials confirmed speculation that they were to suspend the 2020 season due to the coronavirus outbreak which has seen similar measures take place in various different sports across the globe, highlighting the true global nature of the ever-worsening pandemic.
Following suit from Major League Soccer - which announced similar measures this afternoon - and the NBA, the NHL confirmed in a statement on Thursday evening that it would suspend the current season. It hopes that the remaining fixtures in the season can be made up at a later date.
"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," a statement read.
"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."
189 games remain in the current season and it is presently unclear if or how these game can be played in advance of the playoffs due to start in early April.
Several NHL teams who were currently on the road had already begun returning to their homes in advance of the official announcement.
While a full scale cancellation of the season isn't yet on the agenda, it should be noted that one of the two prior occasions in which it was axed after five games on the 1919 final due to the outbreak of the Spanish Flu.