How the NHL is dealing with the coronavirus threat

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The NHL, like many other leagues and institutions, are figuring out how to best deal with the coronavirus outbreak. (Getty)
The NHL, like many other leagues and institutions, are figuring out how to best deal with the coronavirus outbreak. (Getty)

The NHL has reportedly taken its first steps in dealing with the rapidly-spreading coronavirus.

Following a weekend where the International Ice Hockey Federation cancelled six upcoming events over concerns surrounding the disease, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly updated the league’s GMs about the issue on Monday, according to The Athletic’s Craig Custance.

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In a statement obtained by The Athletic, the league says that regular communication with teams regarding the coronavirus has been taking place since January in order to “ensure that they have the latest information from medical experts and that all necessary precautionary steps are being taken. The health and safety of our players, staff and fans are our highest priorities, and we will implement all necessary safety measures as required.”

The league sent a memo to its Board of Governors and general managers last Friday, stating, as of that time, NHL events weren’t in danger of being canceled:

“There is no indication that there is any need to consider canceling or postponing any NHL events based on the coronavirus.”

The CDC did however suggest that clubs and communities start preparing for disruptions and cancellations to events should they occur. The NHL is reportedly “reviewing daily updates from the Center for Disease Control and Health Canada,” and is “in contact with medical experts and shares its findings with all 31 NHL teams.”

So as of this writing, no NHL games have been canceled, no travel has been banned, and games will still be played, but that could all change on a whim as the virus continues to spread rapidly across the globe.

The NHL also planned on having a conference call with other major leagues—including the NFL, NBA and MLB—on Monday to share information regarding their processes, according to Custance. We know the NBA recently sent a memo of its own advising players on how to best avoid contracting the coronavirus, with simple recommendations like shunning high fives and fist bumps, along with limiting autographs and close engagement with large groups of fans among the tips.

Logistically, the NHL itself hasn’t yet been affected too heavily by the outbreak, but scouting and player evaluation has already taken a hit.

The most important pre-draft, amateur event left are the Under-18 World Championships. It’s currently still set to go from April 16-26 in Plymouth and Ann Arbor, Michigan, but Custance, citing a source close to the situation, said “USA Hockey was made aware that it might be in jeopardy of being canceled.”

Axing that premium event would seriously hinder every team’s evaluation process and preparation mere months before the 2020 NHL Draft.

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