Amid growing fears over the spread of COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus, the NHL announced Thursday that it would suspend the regular season, thus following the example set by the NBA on Wednesday and MLS earlier Thursday.
“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," commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement.
“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.”
All regular-season games are postponed, including Thursday's Capitals game against the Detroit Red Wings. The hope is that the league will able to resume games after a short break.
The NBA elected to suspend its season on Wednesday after Rudy Gobert, a player for the Utah Jazz, tested positive for the coronavirus.
The spread of the coronavirus has caused a rapid change in course for major sports leagues, including the NHL. On Saturday, it was reported the NHL was considering closing locker rooms to the media. On Monday, this policy was put in place by the NHL as well as MLB, MLS and NBA in a joint statement.
The first NHL game in an empty arena was scheduled to be played Thursday between the Columbus Blue Jackets and Pittsburgh Penguins, but by Wednesday the NBA had suspended its season and by Thursday the NHL followed suit.
Washington still has 13 games remaining on its regular-season schedule including eight games at Capital One Arena. The final day of the regular season was set for April 4.
Statement from the Washington Capitals: pic.twitter.com/vA4FMdijyl— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) March 12, 2020