To no one’s surprise, the NHL has suspended the regular season until further notice. From the league:
“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.”
To answer a few questions:
Will the Avalanche still be able to practice as a team, and meet regularly as a team? No, not officially. Not until further notice, anyway. Some things, I’m told, are still “fluid” with regard to what teams and players can and can’t do. I mean, the entire team is in Denver right now. Can a few of them skate together if they want? I haven’t heard that they can’t. They can obviously hang out together away from the ice if they want.
Can players leave town if they want? Can they go to their off-season homes and just wait until being told the season is back on? That’s unclear at the moment. I have asked a person who could give a relevant answer on that, and am told that things are still too fluid to answer that.
Will players still be paid during this time off? As of what I am hearing right now, yes. Keep in mind, players were only going to get three more official paychecks on this season: one on March 15, one on April 1 and another pro-rated through the final game of the regular season. Players do not receive paychecks during the playoffs or summer. They get all their money during the regular season.
Will the team issue full refunds to ticket-buyers who have already purchased tickets to remaining regular-season home games? Don’t know officially, but they would have to I believe. You can’t take money for games that never were played.
UPDATE: The team did put out this statement on ticket matters:
A few of my own personal thoughts: This all happened so fast. Everybody is publicly saying the NHL did the right thing, but I can tell you a lot of NHL people are unhappy that such a drastic step was taken so fast. And NHL people are FURIOUS at the NBA for the spectacle of one of their players – Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz – brazenly doing things like touching reporters’ microphones in a mock of the seriousness of the virus, then testing positive himself. Once he tested positive – with another Jazz player testing positive soon after – things changed rapidly with regard to the NBA suspending everything. The NHL had little choice but to follow suit.
That doesn’t mean they aren’t still very unhappy at the NBA for what they see as lax, irresponsible behavior.
I think the regular season, as we know it, is toast. I think what will happen is there will be some sort of mini-series play-in for the teams on the bubble of the playoffs, but the other teams will stay frozen where they are in terms of seeding, then play will resume – IF it resumes, at all – for the playoffs. That’s just my hunch.
I don’t see how this is going to be any less than a month away from resuming. We still barely have any test kits in this country. Nobody has any idea how many people in this country are infected right now. It’s going to take weeks just to get people properly tested. Until that happens, nobody can guarantee that NHL arenas are “safe” for large gatherings of people. Nobody can guarantee anything right now.
We’re all in uncharted territory. And it’s a bad piece of territory to be residing.