NHL suspends play due to virus, hopes to return


The NHL has suspended its season due to the rapid spread of coronavirus but hopes to resume in the future, sources told ESPN Thursday.

There are 189 games and three and a half weeks remaining in the NHL’s regular season. There were 10 games on the NHL slate Thursday.

The decision came one day after the NBA also decided to suspend its season after Rudy Gobert, a player on the Utah Jazz, was confirmed to test positive for COVID-19. Since March 4, Gobert and the Utah Jazz played at Madison Square Garden in New York, TD Garden in Boston and Little Caesars Arena in Detroit — which all host NHL teams as well. The Jazz also faced the Toronto Raptors, who share a home with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

On Thursday, sources told ESPN that Jazz star Donovan Mitchell also tested positive for coronavirus.

The NHL began preparing for a stoppage on Thursday morning when it advised all teams to cancel morning skates, practices or team meetings. Earlier this week, the league adopted a new media policy that prevented reporters from entering the dressing room.

The NHL was already preparing to play games later this month in San Jose, California and Columbus, Ohio with no spectators — per orders from local governments.

There have previously been two seasons in NHL history where the Stanley Cup was not awarded: in 1918-19 because of the Spanish flu and 2004-05 because of a lockout.

Several hockey leagues in Europe — including in Switzerland and Germany — have already cancelled their playoffs. The IIHF Women’s World Championships in Nova Scotia, which was scheduled to begin later this month, has been canceled. The men’s tournament in Switzerland in May and the U18 tourney in Michigan in April are so far still on.

The NHWL’s Isobel Cup Final, scheduled to be held this weekend in Boston, has been postponed.

Harvard hockey had decided Wednesday not to participate in the ECAC tournament, ending its season, but then Thursday the entire tournament was canceled. It was just one of number of conferences calling off their tournaments. And USA Hockey announced Thursday that it was suspending play in its junior league, the USHL, and canceling all championships on a local level.

The spread of COVID-19, and its escalation to a pandemic, caused the NHL to accelerate its plans. On March 2, Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told ESPN the league was only beginning to “explore contingency plans” including postponing or canceling games, or playing in empty arenas. “I think it’s very unlikely — knock on wood, I’m hopeful — that we would progress to a stage where we have to consider something that dramatic,” Daly said at the time. “But certainly everything is possible, and we have to look at all possible contingencies. If it gets to that point, we will be ready.”

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