The NHL announced Thursday afternoon that the 2019-20 season has been suspended in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a statement, the NHL said the pause on the season will begin with Thursday’s games.
“The NHL has been attempting to follow mandates of health experts and local authorities, while preparing for any possible developments without taking premature or unnecessary measures,” the league said.
“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 see seems likely that some member of the NHL community would test postive at some point — it is no longer appropriate to try to continue to play games at this time.”
The <a href=”https://twitter.com/NHL?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@NHL</a> pauses 2019-20 season. <a href=”https://t.co/WMePei4clH”>https://t.co/WMePei4clH</a> <a href=”https://t.co/W5Hqmk3kX7″>pic.twitter.com/W5Hqmk3kX7</a>
Earlier Thursday, all NHL clubs were advised not to conduct morning skates, practices or team meetings amid efforts to contain the spread of the virus.
The move came after the NBA suspended its schedule last night following the revelation a player for the Utah Jazz tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
The NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets and San Jose Sharks had said Wednesday they would play upcoming home games behind closed doors and without fans after state and local officials instituted bans on large gatherings of people.
There were 10 games on tonight’s NHL schedule, including 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.
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.”