The coronavirus has thrown many sports leagues into upheaval with regard to scheduling and handling the outbreak and the National Hockey League is no different. The NHL has a contingency plan going forward, one that addresses the possibility of postponing games or changing the way games take place.
There are, according to Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston, three basic elements of the plan.
One aspect is to have select teams close their locker rooms to media. Media availability would instead involve more formal press conferences. There is no league-wide decision regarding this aspect of the plan, but there may be some further news coming soon.
Another part of the plan is to potentially hold hockey games in empty arenas. This would make for an odd visual, of course, but it could also lead to a loss of revenue and an impact on the bottom line of many franchises. One would have to imagine this as a last resort, but the spread of the outbreak is leading to some creative – and necessary – solutions.
The third part of the plan involves holding games on so-called neutral sites, which is a way to address the situation if a region becomes more susceptible to an outbreak or is involved in some sort of quarantine procedure.
With over 50 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Canada and no signs of the outbreak slowing, the fallout has already been significant. The IIHF announced the cancellation of the women’s worlds in Nova Scotia, for instance, and the NBA has already informed teams of the possibility of playing empty arena games.
That hasn’t been met with much approval, as you’d imagine. League owners and players have objected to the idea, with some in turn suggesting the idea of postponing play for a period of time to ensure the safety of fans.
“I don’t want to create any speculation or hysteria,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said Saturday. “There are obviously a variety of consequences that we may have to focus on and we’ll do that in the appropriate time, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves here, OK? We’re staying on top of it. We’re in constant communication with our clubs and the players association and we’re going to deal with this in as thorough, professional, on-top-of-it manner as possible. Let’s everybody take a deep breath.”
The NHL has already seen the elimination of all business-related travel outside of North America for its employees, plus players have been asked to limit contact with fans.
Photo credit: AP Photo/John Minchillo