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NHL expects to resume season after pause for coronavirus

Commissioner Bettman says no player has tested positive, to his knowledge

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / Columnist

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman decided to pause the season Wednesday night after an NBA player tested positive for the coronavirus and the NBA suspended its season, but he wanted to speak to the NHL Board of Governors on Thursday afternoon before making an announcement, he said in an interview on CNBC.

Commissioner Bettman said no NHL player has tested positive for the coronavirus, to the best of his knowledge.

"The last couple of weeks, we, like everybody else, have been monitoring what's been going on, and we went from dealing with things on a day-to-day basis to an hour-by-hour basis, and then it was in minutes," Commissioner Bettman said. "And we were constantly evolving our strategy as to how we were going to have our teams playing or not playing, or under what circumstances.

"But last night, when the NBA had a positive test and they had to cancel a game at that moment, it was clear to me. And through all of our calculus, we knew that once a player tested positive, it would be a game changer.

"I decided it was time to get ahead of it and not wait for one of our players to get tested, because in all likelihood, at some point in time, we weren't going to get through the rest of the season without a player testing positive."

Commissioner Bettman said the NHL answered a lot of questions on a conference call with the Board of Governors and has been working closely with teams, medical personnel and the NHL Players' Association.

"We've sent everybody home, and we've asked them to self-quarantine for the time being, and we're going to continue to monitor the evolution of the coronavirus," he said.

Commissioner Bettman stressed the NHL is taking a pause.

"I'm a little hesitant to use the word suspension, because our hope and our expectation is, when things get back to normal and it's safe and it's prudent, that we can go back and resume the season and ultimately have the Stanley Cup awarded," he said.

Asked how far into the summer the NHL was willing to push the schedule, Commissioner Bettman said, "That's a question that I can't answer right now. It's something that I and my senior staff are dealing with on a day-to-day basis.

"It's going to evolve. We're looking at all contingencies, and when the circumstances are right that we can play, then we'll look at what we can do.

"My hope is that at some point we'll get back to some normalcy, and that's not just my hope for the NHL, and it's not just my hope for all sports, it's my hope for everything that's going on."

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