The NBA suspended its season indefinitely Wednesday night after a player from the Utah Jazz tested positive for the coronavirus. Less than 12 hours later, a second Jazz player also tested positive. MLS announced Thursday it would suspend matches amid the coronavirus crisis and planned to reschedule postponed games on the back end of the season.
“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,” Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. “Until then, we thank NHL fans for your patience and hope you stay healthy.”
Bettman stated the league will continue to monitor all the appropriate medical advice, and it will encourage players and other members of the NHL community to take all reasonable precautions, including self-quarantine when appropriate.
“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,” Bettman 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 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.”
The NHL Players’ Association also released a statement shortly after the temporary postponement of the remainder of the season, saying the decision to suspend play because of the coronavirus pandemic was an “appropriate course of action at this time. . . . The players are looking forward to the opportunity to resume play in front of hockey fans everywhere.”
Earlier Thursday morning, the NHL, with 31 franchises in the United States and Canada, was preparing for a stoppage, announcing that “given the uncertainty regarding next steps regarding the coronavirus,” teams were being advised not to conduct morning skates, practices or team meetings.
All morning skates in preparation for 10 games scheduled for Thursday night were promptly called off.
The NHL was less than a month from the start of its postseason. The league has 189 games remaining, with the regular season originally slated to end April 4.
“I think we all believe that the health and well-being of every individual person has to be the priority when decisions like this are made,” Boston Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney said in a statement. "… Hopefully we are able to resume playing at some point and the pursuit of the Stanley Cup is realized and it becomes a small part of the story.
Wednesday night, after the news of the NBA’s suspension of play because the Jazz’s Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus, the NHL stated it would not immediately suspend its season, releasing a statement saying it would continue to consult with medical experts and evaluate its options. NHL games continued Wednesday night without disruption.
Earlier on Wednesday, the Columbus Blue Jackets and San Jose Sharks both announced they would play home games without fans in attendance after their respective state and local governments declared that mass gatherings would be banned because of coronavirus concerns.
As of Thursday morning, the Washington Capitals remained slated to play their scheduled game against the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday night at Capital One Arena even though the D.C. government urged the cancellation of all nonessential mass gatherings through the end of the month because of the coronavirus. That included conferences, conventions and entertainment events drawing more than 1,000 people.
Meanwhile, the Washington Wizards, who share space at Capital One Arena with the Capitals, announced Thursday morning that players and team personnel had been told to self-quarantine as the NBA coronavirus scare continued. Players, coaches and staffers who “exhibit or develop flu-like symptoms will be tested” for the coronavirus, the team’s statement read.
The Capitals issued their own statement later Thursday, saying the team “will continue to closely monitor the health of players, coaches and hockey operations staff. Those who exhibit illness symptoms will be evaluated by medical personnel and tested when necessary, per CDC guidelines.”
Capitals forward Lars Eller, who is from Denmark, talked after Wednesday’s practice about how the coronavirus is resonating both in the United States and with friends and family abroad.
“It’s very new to everybody,” Eller said. “Nobody’s really experienced something like this in our lifetime, so even the people making the rules for us have not been through something like this. So it’s a very fluid situation that looks like we weren’t very well prepared for, so whatever’s going to happen is going to happen.”