The NHL has paused the 2019-20 season due to growing fears about coronavirus (COVID-19), the league announced Thursday.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman released the following statement:
“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.
“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. 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.
“We will continue to monitor all the appropriate medical advice, and we will encourage our players and other members of the NHL community to take all reasonable precautions – including by self-quarantine, where appropriate. 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. Until then, we thank NHL fans for your patience and hope you stay healthy.”
The NHL's decision comes less than 24 hours after the NBA suspended its season Wednesday night, following the revelation that a Utah Jazz player had tested positive for coronavirus. On Thursday morning, multiple outlets reported that a second Jazz player also tested positive.
No NHL player has tested positive for coronavirus as of yet, but with the number of confirmed cases continuing to grow around the country and world, the decision to suspend the NHL season can be viewed as a precautionary measure. It remains to be seen if and when the season will resume.
Earlier Wednesday, the Sharks announced that they would play the remainder of their March home games at SAP Center without any fans present. Given the league's announcement, those games now won't be taking place at all.
San Jose opened up a four-game road trip with a 6-2 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday night. With the Los Angeles Kings leapfrogging the Sharks in the standings with their victory over the Ottawa Senators, San Jose (29-36-5) heads into the indefinite hiatus ranking dead last among all 31 NHL teams with only 70 points.