Coyotes CEO Ahron Cohen: NHL’s pause is ‘fluid,’ but resuming games expected

Mar 13, 2020, 10:53 AM | Updated: 2:55 pm
Arizona Coyotes CEO Ahron Cohen joins The Doug & Wolf Show for an interview on 98.7 FM Arizona’s ...
Arizona Coyotes CEO Ahron Cohen joins The Doug & Wolf Show for an interview on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station on Feb. 13, 2019. (Arizona Sports/Matt Layman)
(Arizona Sports/Matt Layman)

It’s starting to sound like a broken record, but maybe because it’s the only certainty: The coronavirus outbreak and its far-reaching consequences comprise a “fluid” situation.

Nobody can say for sure how long the National Hockey League — or any other league — will be on hiatus after the NHL announced Thursday that it was pausing the season amid fears of COVID-19. Arizona Coyotes president and CEO Ahron Cohen admitted to Doug & Wolf on Arizona Sports even he didn’t expect this outcome mere days ago.

“At the start of the week, this was certainly not the expectation that we were going to be sitting here Friday morning talking about the league being put on pause,” he said.

Cohen said it started with safeguarding players from fan interactions and also protecting the fans themselves. The Coyotes put out a statement on Wednesday outlining how the team planned to enhance fan safety for Thursday night’s game against the Vancouver Canucks.

Twenty-four hours later, the game was called off.

The NHL followed suit with the NBA, which suspended its season after Utah Jazz star Rudy Gobert tested positive for coronavirus. Gobert’s teammate, Donovan Mitchell, also reportedly tested positive.

The Jazz played on Monday in Toronto at ScotiaBank Arena, which is also home to the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs. The Jazz were at Little Ceasars Arena, T.D. Garden and Madison Square Garden this month, which all are mixed-use facilities that house both NBA and NHL teams.

“Quite frankly, there are a number of teams that, over the last 10 days or so, were in the same visitor locker room a day behind the Utah Jazz,” Cohen said. “So there’s certainly a concern there.

“There’s no strict metric or guideline as to when it’s going to be ready to come back and play hockey. The guiding principle there is, when it’s safe and prudent, the NHL will resume.”

Still, Cohen said repeatedly that the expectation is to eventually resume the season.

“These are unprecedented times and everything is very fluid right now,” he said. “I think first and foremost, the goal of everyone and the goal of myself and our team is to make sure that our employees and players and fans and really everybody in this great state of Arizona is as safe as possible.”

For now, the Coyotes’ hockey operations department is on hold, as general manager John Chayka told reporters on a conference call Thursday.

“All the hockey operations staff, whether it’s our [AHL] team, our NHL team, players, coaches, trainers, extending to scouts and player development, the message is simple and it’s consistent: In the near term, it’s go home. Be safe,” Chayka said. “Stay at home until directed otherwise. Until things start to stabilize and we get other direction from the league, that’s our mandate.”

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