ST. PAUL -- The NHL has suspended its season.
The league announced the decision for the indefinite halt of play on Thursday afternoon, March 12, in a statement from commissioner Gary Bettman.
“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,” Bettman said in a release.
This announcement comes a little more than three weeks before the scheduled conclusion of the 2019-20 regular season.
While no timetable has been given for when the league might play again, Bettman said in the statement, “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.”
This work stoppage means the Minnesota Wild were not going to play their Thursday night game against the Vegas Golden Knights at Xcel Energy Center.
It is still unclear what this means for the Wild on a broader scale. They were only one point back of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference as of Thursday.
“The Minnesota Wild supports the NHL’s decision to pause games until further notice,” the team said in a release. “The health and safety of our community, including our guests, players and staff is of the utmost importance to us. We will continue to work closely with the NHL and local, state and national authorities on all of our safety measures and any necessary next steps we need to take in regards to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
This decision from the NHL felt inevitable considering the current landscape surrounding the coronavirus.
On Wednesday night, the NBA suspended its season after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the virus. Since then, teammate Donovan Mitchell also has tested positive.
“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 in a release. “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 Thursday, the MLS also suspended its season indefinitely, and every major college basketball conference, including the Big Ten, opted to cancel their respective tournaments.
Before the NHL made its decision on Thursday afternoon, the Wild canceled its morning skate and media availability, perhaps foreshadowing what was to come.
“It’s a scary thing, obviously, in our world today,” Wild interim coach Dean Evason said Wednesday. “We are just going to follow protocol and whatever is asked of us.”
The NHL Players Association released the following statement on Thursday: “The decision to temporarily suspend play due to the COVID-19 pandemic is an appropriate course of action at this time. 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.”