“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.”
In explaining the league’s decision, the release detailed that officials were hoping to abide by the decisions of medical experts and relevant authorities without resorting to “premature or unnecessary measures.” Ultimately — citing the National Basketball Association’s decision to suspend the rest of the 2019-20 season yesterday evening — the NHL determined “it is no longer appropriate to try to continue to play games at this time.”
It remains to be seen what will happen to fans in possession of tickets to upcoming games. The NHL app’s ticket management function — partnered with Ticketmaster — currently lists erstwhile scheduled events as “To Be Announced” for season ticket holders. Conjecture would suggest that the league could hope to resume the season in full at a later date. TSN’s Frank Seravelli reported via Twitter that the NHL was in communication with its respective teams’ arenas, asking about their availability through the end of July.
The NHL’s public relations team had released a statement late last night, telling fans that it was currently “evaluating the options” in light of the NBA’s decision to suspend its season until further notice, which came after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert preliminarily tested positive for COVID-19.
“The National Hockey League is aware of the NBA’s decision tonight to indefinitely suspend its season due to a player testing positive for the coronavirus. The NHL is continuing to consult with medical experts and is evaluating the options. We expect to have a further update tomorrow,” the statement reads.
The latest update comes after NHL PR tweeted this morning, saying “clubs are advised not to conduct morning skates, practices or team meetings today,” in light of the uncertainty of the league’s next steps regarding coronavirus.
Hockey media insider Pierre LeBrun tweeted Thursday afternoon that he’s been told referees and linesmen en route to officiate games were instructed to return home.
On Monday, the NHL joined the NBA, National Football League, and Major League Soccer in announcing that it was restricting access to its teams’ locker rooms to players and essential personnel, eliminating media access.
“After consultation with infectious disease and public health experts, and given the issues that can be associated with close contact in pre- and post-game settings, all team locker rooms and clubhouses will be open only to players and essential employees of teams and team facilities until further notice. Media access will be maintained in designated locations outside of the locker room and clubhouse setting. These changes will be effective beginning with tomorrow’s games and practices.”