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NHL Commissioner Bettman addresses coronavirus concern regarding media

Says League is 'considering every conceivable option' for access, arenas

by Mike Battaglino / Staff Writer

The NHL is "considering every conceivable option" but has not made a formal announcement that its teams close their locker rooms to the media in response to the coronavirus, Commissioner Gary Bettman said Saturday.

"We're considering every conceivable option that may be because what's happening is evolving not only on a day-to-day basis in terms of us staying on top of developments, but it's almost hour to hour," Bettman said. "We are considering -- no formal announcement. Some clubs may be focusing on this on their own, but as you all know the locker room is a very intimate environment and players are not always fully clothed and it may be best to have media accessibility at a podium for everybody's health and safety, not just the players' but [the media's].

"And it's different than fans being in the stands, particularly ... our players play in an enclosed environment. So we're focused on the fact that the tightness, the crowdedness and the intimacy of postgame availability may need to be adjusted while we're focusing on the coronavirus."

Commissioner Bettman said that whatever changes are made are unlikely to become permanent.

"What we're trying to do is make sure that we're doing the prudent things," he said. "We're not looking to change our media policies on a long-term basis. This is in direct response to the coronavirus."

The Commissioner also addressed the possibility of NHL games being played without fans in the arenas. He was speaking at BB&T Center, where the Florida Panthers were hosting the Montreal Canadiens.

"You know what, I don't want to create any speculation or hysteria. There are obviously a variety of consequences that we may have to focus on, and we'll do that at the appropriate time," he said. "But let's not get ahead of ourselves here, OK? We're staying on top of it and we're in constant communication with our clubs and the [NHL] Players' Association, and we're going to deal with this in as thorough, professional, on-top-of-it manner as possible. But let's everybody take a deep breath."

Reports earlier Saturday said the NHL had decided to have its teams close the locker rooms to the media. Commissioner Bettman said that is not yet the case.

"In the short term, clubs are focusing on what they may want to do," he said. "We're focusing on it from the leaguewide basis, and I wouldn't be surprised if at some point we decide to go in another direction because it may be the prudent thing to do."

Commissioner Bettman said the NHL is focused daily on updates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States and from Public Health Canada.

"If we make an adjustment (to the media policy), we'll go back," he said. "If we put it in effect across the League, it will be just as we're dealing with the coronavirus. We appreciate everything that the media does covering our game and the relationship you have with our teams and our players. But we're dealing with interesting, to say the least, and challenging times from a medical standpoint and we want to make sure that we're doing the prudent things for everybody.

"And again, a locker room is different than being in the stands, and you'll have access to the players, but if we do it from a podium it may be better for them and for you because we're dealing with groups that are doing a lot of traveling and interacting with a lot of people and we want to make sure that for the community that's involved in the nuts and bolts of putting on the games, we're doing the right things. That's why we're considering everything." independent correspondent Alain Poupart contributed to this report

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