Photo Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

NHL pauses season in response to coronavirus pandemic

The past 36 hours have been a surreal, unprecedented time for both public health and the sports world. The World Health Organization declared the outbreak of COVID-19 a pandemic on Wednesday, with the spread of the coronavirus growing at a rapid rate.

The situation became very real on Wednesday when the NBA suspended their season less than an hour after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the disease. Fellow Jazz teammate Donovan Mitchell also tested positive, ESPN reported this afternoon. In the month of March, the Jazz have played in NBA-NHL shared buildings in Toronto, Detroit, Boston and New York.

Less than 24 hours later, NCAA basketball conference tournaments were completely cancelled. The MLB is expected to suspend the start to their season as well.

The NHL is following suit in response to the coronavirus outbreak. The league has indefinitely suspended the season.

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“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’s statement read. “the National Hockey League is announcing today that it will pause the 2019-20 season beginning with tonight’s games.”

The next steps are still yet to be determined. The Stanley Cup Playoffs were set to take place in under a month, as the majority of the league has reached the 70-game mark. Should the playoffs take place, it is unclear how the remainder of the regular season will be handled.

For the Red Wings, 11 games were left on their 2019-20 schedule. Having already clinched last-place in league standings, neither decisions on the postseason nor the draft lottery will have any direct implications on them. However, the postponement will impact the draft in Montreal, free agency and how the club scouts. Leagues around the world that have 2020 draft prospects such as the SHL, DEL, CHL and USHL have either cancelled or suspended their seasons.

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There is also, most importantly, the state of the players’ and their families’ health. As touched on before, the Jazz played the Detroit Pistons at Little Caesars Arena on March 7. Players on the Pistons have been advised to self quarantine for the time being. How the Red Wings players and staff members have been directed to go about the situation has yet to be told.