After the National Hockey League announced on Thursday that it was pausing its 2019–20 season amid growing concerns over the novel coronavirus pandemic, Major League baseball announced it was suspending spring training games and postponing the start of the 2020 season by at least two weeks, and the National Collegiate Athletic Association canceled March Madness.
NCAA President Mark Emmert and the league’s board of governors decided to cancel the Division 1 men’s and women’s tournaments as as well as winter and spring championships. “This decision is based on the evolving COVID-19 public health threat, our ability to ensure the events do not contribute to spread of the pandemic, and the impracticality of hosting such events at any time during this academic year given ongoing decisions by other entities,” the NCAA said in a statement.
While there are no reports of an NHL player testing positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, the NBA suspended its season on Wednesday “until further notice,” after a player on the Utah Jazz tested positive for the virus. As NHL commissioner Gary Bettman notes, several teams in the two leagues share facilities. The NHL suspension begins 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,” Bettman said in a statement. “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 NHL Players Association issued a statement expressing its agreement with the league’s call, saying, “The decision to temporarily suspend play due to the COVID-19 pandemic is an appropriate course of action at this time.”
The decision to temporarily suspend play due to the COVID-19 pandemic is an appropriate course of action at this time. pic.twitter.com/ApudNZvurS
— NHLPA (@NHLPA) March 12, 2020
The Utah Jazz were in Oklahoma City to play the Thunder on Wednesday night before the game was abruptly canceled just before tipoff. Utah center Rudy Gobert, who was not in the arena at the time, had tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
The NHL’s Bettman added that the league wants to resume playing “as soon as it is appropriate and prudent, so that we will be able to complete the season and award the Stanley Cup.”
The last time the NHL had a shortened regular season was due to a work stoppage during the 2012–13 season. In 1919, the league canceled the Stanley Cup Final between the Montreal Canadiens and Seattle Metropolitans halfway through the tournament due to an influenza outbreak, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
The National Women’s Hockey League postponed its Isobel Cup championship series between the Boston Pride and Minnesota Whitecaps, which was scheduled for March 13th. And Major League Soccer also announced on Thursday that it is suspending the rest of its season as well.
Update March 12th, 3:20PM ET: Adds new information about Major League Baseball postponing its season
Update March 12th, 4:55PM ET: Adds new information about the NCAA canceling its playoff tournament.