Florida Panthers

NHL suspends play because of the coronavirus, but hopes to resume season in future

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The NHL is suspending its season because of the coronavirus, but the league hopes to resume play in the future.

The NHL announced its plans in a statement Thursday following a conference call with the board of governors.

“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,” commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement, “the National Hockey League is announcing today that it will pause the 2019‑20 season beginning with tonight’s games.”

The Florida Panthers were scheduled to face the Dallas Stars on Thursday in Dallas and return home to play the New Jersey Devils on Saturday in Sunrise. Neither of those games will happen.

The Panthers currently sit three games out of the third and final playoff spot in the Atlantic Division.

On Wednesday, the Columbus Blue Jackets and San Jose Sharks both announced they planned to play their home games without any fans in the arena. Earlier Thursday, the NHL told teams not to practice as it weighed its options. Shortly after 1:30 p.m., the NHL announced it would follow the NBA’s lead and suspend play for an indefinite period of time.

“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. “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.”

On Wednesday, the NBA became the first professional sports league to announce it would be suspending play. The NBA’s board of governors convened for a conference call Wednesday and the majority of owners hoped to continue play without fans in the arena, although some preferred the league just suspend play altogether, ESPN reported. About an hour later, the Utah Jazz’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder was abruptly canceled just second before tipoff after Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19, The Athletic reported.

“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,” Bettman said. “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.”

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