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National Hockey League suspends season amid coronavirus concerns

General view of action between the Vegas Golden Knights and the Arizona Coyotes during the second period of the NHL game at Gila River Arena on October 10, 2019 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The National Hockey League has paused its season due to the growing concern of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, the league announced on Thursday.

This will affect the remainder of the Coyotes’ regular season, which included 12 total games, eight of them at home. Arizona was scheduled to play Thursday night at home against the Vancouver Canucks.

“Moving forward, in terms of when do we start back up again, all these other questions, I think time will ultimately tell,” team CEO Ahron Cohen said. “Right now, I think two things I know: One, there’s a pause, two, it’s our expectation that we will continue at some point. That’s why they said pause, not cancellation. But obviously all of these things are fluid and malleable. And we’ll take this day-by-day and see where things go from here.”

General manager John Chayka said that, to date, the team hasn’t had anyone test positive for coronavirus.

The NHL released a statement earlier Thursday to announce the “pause” in the regular season.

“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,” a statement from 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 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 statement added that the “goal is to resume play as soon as it is appropriate and prudent, so that we will be able to complete the season and aware the Stanley Cup.”

“The Arizona Coyotes will continue to monitor all the appropriate medical advice, and we will encourage our players and other members of the community to take all reasonable precautions – including by self-quarantine, where appropriate,” the Coyotes said in a team statement. “The NHL’s goal is to resume play as soon as it is appropriate and prudent, so that we will be able to complete the season.”

On Thursday morning, before the suspension, the NHL advised teams to cancel morning skates, practices and meetings, and a team spokesperson said the Coyotes cancelled their optional morning skate and media availability in accordance with that advisory.

The news comes after the NBA suspended its season indefinitely on Wednesday night in the wake of Utah Jazz star Rudy Gobert reportedly testing positive for coronavirus. On Thursday morning, another report said Gobert’s teammate, Donovan Mitchell, also tested positive for the virus.

It wasn’t immediately clear how or when the NHL would resume play.

Even before the NHL announced the pausing of its season, multiple reports indicated that some NHL personnel working road games had been told to book flights back home, indicating that a suspension was on the way.

Before the pause, the Coyotes on Wednesday issued a statement outlining plans to enhance fan safety at Thursday’s home game. Other teams had banned the general public from attending the games altogether.

The cancellation of games would obviously impact league revenue significantly. That could potentially even have an effect on the NHL’s salary cap figures for next season, as Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman suggested on Wednesday morning. He added that the league held a conference call with teams on Tuesday, and that “the concern [was] real.”

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover from the virus.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.


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