The sports world came to an abrupt halt this week, after concerns around the COVID-19 pandemic led to every major league in North America choosing to pause their schedules in the interest of public health.
It is obviously far too early to know when we can expect teams back on the ice this year, but the commissioner is steadfast in his belief that the league will resume play when the time is right and that the season will pick up where it left off.
"I'm a little hesitant to use the word suspension, because our hope and our expectation is, when things get back to normal and it's safe and it's prudent, that we can go back and resume the season and ultimately have the Stanley Cup awarded," commissioner Gary Bettman said in an interview with CNBC on Thursday.
With just over 10 games remaining for most teams in the league there is not much season left to continue, but the commissioner’s clear stated goal is to make sure the Stanley Cup is handed out at some point this year. As for when exactly fans can expect that trophy presentation to happen is still up in the air.
"That's a question that I can't answer right now. It's something that I and my senior staff are dealing with on a day-to-day basis,” Bettman said. "It's going to evolve. We're looking at all contingencies, and when the circumstances are right that we can play, then we'll look at what we can do.”
NHL follows NBA’s lead
The decision to pause action across the league came in response to the NBA’s move to do so, following a positive test for COVID-19 from Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert on Wednesday.
"Last night, when the NBA had a positive test and they had to cancel a game at that moment, it was clear to me. And through all of our calculus, we knew that once a player tested positive, it would be a game changer,” Bettman said, opting to make the choice to stop proceedings before the NHL had their own case. “I decided it was time to get ahead of it and not wait for one of our players to get tested, because in all likelihood, at some point in time, we weren't going to get through the rest of the season without a player testing positive."
And so, we wait. With sports, and life in general right now, all most of us can do is take whatever precautions we can and wait for the time to be right to get back to life as we remember it. The hockey world is no different.
"My hope is that at some point we'll get back to some normalcy, and that's not just my hope for the NHL, and it's not just my hope for all sports, it's my hope for everything that's going on."
San Jose Sharks arena employee tests positive
While Bettman is correct that no active NHL player has tested positive for COVID-19, there is a connection to an active case within the league. An employee at SAP Center in San Jose, home of the NHL’s San Jose Sharks, has tested positive for coronavirus.
“This person is under self-quarantine and receiving care from medical professionals. We have been informed that this employee is recovering and feeling better,” the team said in a release.
Hockey Canada, minor leagues also suspend play
In conjunction with the NHL and leagues around the world, Hockey Canada cancelled all sanctioned events on their current calendar.
“Without question, this is an unprecedented period of difficulty for the sports world,” wrote representatives of the organization. “The health and safety of all participants in sport, including players, coaches, staff, officials, fans, family, volunteers and the general public, is of the utmost importance to Hockey Canada.”
These cancellations include several tournaments, events, and championships at different levels around the country and hockey world.
Additionally, minor league circuits the American Hockey League and Canadian Hockey League also suspended play, pausing all action until further notice.
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