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NHL to pause season due to coronavirus

'Goal is to resume play as soon as it is appropriate and prudent,' Commissioner Bettman says

NHL.com @NHLdotcom

The NHL will pause the 2019-20 regular season due to the concerns of the coronavirus, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced Thursday.

The NHL has 189 games remaining. The regular season was scheduled to end April 4, with the Stanley Cup Playoffs starting the week of April 6.

"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," Commissioner Bettman said in a statement.

"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."

All team meetings and practices have been put on pause.

Video: Friedman on NHL season pause

The NHL Players' Association said it agreed with the League's approach.

"The decision to temporarily suspend play due to the COVID-19 pandemic is an appropriate course of action at this time," it said in a statement. "The NHLPA will continue to closely monitor this very dynamic situation and remain in daily discussions with the League, our medical consultants, and our players regarding all aspects of this matter. The players are looking forward to the opportunity to resume play in front of hockey fans everywhere."

The announcement came one day after the NBA announced it was suspending its season after a player on the Utah Jazz tested positive for the virus.

Also Thursday, the American Hockey League announced suspension of play until further notice. The three leagues that make up the Canadian Hockey League -- the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, the Ontario Hockey League and the Western Hockey League -- have paused their seasons, as has the United States Hockey League.

Major League Baseball suspended spring training games and delayed the start of its regular season, scheduled for March 26, by at least two weeks. Major League Soccer announced it is suspending its season for 30 days. The PGA Tour canceled The Players Championship following the first day of play Thursday in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, and said it was canceling all tour events through the Valero Texas Open, which was scheduled for April 2-5. The NCAA announced the cancellation of all of its winter and spring championships, including the Frozen Four and the men's and women's basketball tournaments.

Before the NHL put the season on pause, the Columbus Blue Jackets were scheduled to play the Pittsburgh Penguins at Nationwide Arena on Thursday without fans in response to an order banning mass gatherings in Ohio. The San Jose Sharks, responding to a similar ban in Santa Clara County in California, were planning to play their remaining home games this month without fans at SAP Center. 

Winnipeg Jets captain Blake Wheeler said Wednesday he was ready to follow whatever steps the NHL would take. 

"The League is going to have the best interest of the players and the fans and everyone involved in making this league what it is," Wheeler said. "You just trust that the information they're getting is going to be relayed and take the proper steps to make sure [of] the safety of everyone."

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