- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 12, 2020

The National Hockey League has joined the National Basketball Association and Major League Soccer in suspending its season Thursday due to the coronavirus outbreak.

“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,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement.

Bettman pointed to the NBA, which became the first the first major sports league in the U.S. to pull the trigger Wednesday night after a player, Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert, tested positive for coronavirus.

“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,” Bettman said.

The NHL hopes to resume the season and hold a postseason “as soon as it is appropriate and prudent.”

The Washington Capitals were preparing to play a home game Thursday against the Detroit Red Wings. But the NHL advised teams to call off all morning skates and practices Thursday morning, “given the uncertainty regarding next steps regarding the coronavirus,” per a statement.

The Capitals were set to hold Thursday’s game with fans even after the D.C. Department of Health released a recommendation Wednesday saying not to hold “non-essential mass gatherings” of 1,000 people or more.

“I think it’s very, very, very hard to stop (the virus),” Capitals center Lars Eller said Wednesday. “I’m not a doctor, but I don’t think there’s any stopping it. But I think what’s being done is being done to slow it down, buy us time to prepare.”

Further, the Capitals may need to consider getting COVID-19 tests for players and staff. They played the New York Rangers last week at Madison Square Garden — just one day after the Utah Jazz visited the New York Knicks and Gobert used the same visitors’ locker room before the Capitals did.

The Wizards announced Thursday morning that players, coaches and basketball personnel would self-quarantine for three to four days due to interacting with the Jazz and Knicks.

In addition to the NHL and NBA, MLS announced a 30-day suspension Thursday morning, and Major League Baseball reportedly will suspend spring training.

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