When news came down Wednesday evening that the NBA was suspending its season because of the coronavirus, you had to know the NHL would be watching. As of right now, we know that the NHL is mulling over its options. And that’s all we know.
“The National Hockey League is aware of the NBA’s decision tonight to indefinitely suspend its season due to a player testing positive for the coronavirus,” the league said in a release. “The NHL is continuing to consult with medical experts and is evaluating the options. We expect to have a further update (on Thursday).”
If you follow the pattern, it seems likely that the NHL will suspend play this season. How long that suspension will last and what will happen next remains to be seen.
The NHL is currently in the mode of consulting with experts and the NHLPA, which comes on the heels of announcements that the San Jose Sharks and Columbus Blue Jackets are among the teams playing games in front of empty arenas. It doesn’t look like that’s going to be all that happens, especially as we greet the possibility of a suspended or even cancelled season.
We are in uncharted waters as people navigate the confusing and chaotic stew of misinformation and actual information, with some people expressing surprise that an NBA player who tested positive for coronavirus was ready to play basketball on Wednesday. This flies in the face of the reality that some cases of COVID-19 are symptom-free and the vast majority of cases of the virus are “mild” for healthy individuals.
Nevertheless, the NHL and other sports leagues have a responsibility to protect fans and players alike. With three weeks to go in the regular season, it seems probable we’re looking at the end of this year’s activities.
The last time the NHL locked itself out because of health concerns was in 1918-1919 when the Spanish flu pandemic infected 500 million people around the world – roughly 27 percent of the global population at that time.
For now, we are in a waiting game. It seems likely that the National Hockey League will take significant action, especially in light of the NBA’s decision and other leagues taking precautions seriously. We will have more analysis as this situation continues to develop.
Photo credit: NHL