As of early March, the NHL is running “business as usual” but is making plans due to the spread of novel coronavirus around the globe.
Update March 11, 6:00 p.m. ET: Starting on Thursday, the Blue Jackets will restrict fan attendance at home due to coronavirus in compliance with the governor of Ohio’s mass gathering ban.
Update March 9, 7:00 p.m. ET: As of Tuesday, the NHL will close dressing rooms to the media in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus, on recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control. All media availabilities will take place in a formal press conference area.
Original story as follows.
The NHL is starting to evaluate contingency plans for the upcoming 2019-20 playoffs and beyond in the wake of the spread of COVID-19 — also known as novel coronavirus — around the world.
At the NHL’s general manager’s meetings in Florida, deputy commissioner Bill Daly spoke to reporters on what the NHL’s plans are in case the coronavirus becomes a bigger threat in North America. The league has had discussions on playing games in empty arenas or postponing or canceling games outright, but do not see that as an option at this point in time.
“I think it’s very unlikely — knock on wood, I’m hopeful — that we would progress to a stage where we have to consider something that dramatic,” Daly said to ESPN on Monday. “But certainly everything is possible, and we have to look at all possible contingencies. If it gets to that point, we will be ready.”
However, the NHL will likely forgo their usual preseason trip to China in the fall at the start of the 2020-21 season after previously playing in China in 2017 and 2018. The NHL did not play games in China in 2019 due to logistical issues with booking arenas.
“We haven’t announced anything,” Daly said. “But it is unlikely we will play games in China next season, in part because of this [health crisis].”
On Wednesday, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told reporters that the league is operating “business as usual” though league employees are under a business travel ban outside of North America, and will be quarantined for two weeks if they choose to travel to areas affected by the virus.
“We’re taking it day-by-day, keeping everyone completely informed, relying on what the experts are telling us,” Bettman said at the general manager’s meetings.
The NHL has also sent out a memo to all 31 NHL teams on best practices for players and team employees, which include frequent hand washing and teleconference meetings where possible.
Outside of the NHL, the International Ice Hockey Federation has canceled six tournaments due to the coronavirus outbreak, which included four under-18 tournaments and two women’s senior events. Various other international hockey events have been postponed or canceled in the wake of the virus.
On Monday, March 9, after a report emerged that the San Jose Sharks would likely not be playing home games in front of fans in the immediate future, the team issued a statement saying they will review the situation following the County of Santa Clara’s Public Health Department’s order to prohibit public and private mass gatherings:
The coronavirus first emerged in December 2019 in the city of Wuhan, China. To date, more than 90,000 cases have been confirmed worldwide, with the virus being identified in more than 70 countries, including the United States. The virus spreads similarly to influenza, with sneezing and coughing as the primary vectors of infection.
On Jan. 30, the World Health Organization declared the virus a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern.” In order to contain the spread of the virus, countries around the world have implemented travel bans, curfews and quarantines.
For more information about COVID-19, visit the CDC’s website or the website for your state’s Department of Health.