Along with the NBA, MLB, and MLS, the NHL decided on Thursday to take precautionary measures and pause the 2019-20 season amidst the coronavirus pandemic. Dallas Stars President Brad Alberts provided insight on the decision and what it means for the team, fans, and League moving forward.
The National Hockey League officially paused the 2019-20 regular season due to the coronavirus outbreak, it announced shortly after noon CT on Thursday. All games, including tonight’s scheduled contest between the Dallas Stars and Florida Panthers, as well as other League events, have been postponed indefinitely.
It all began on Wednesday night when Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz tested preliminarily positive for coronavirus prior to the team’s tipoff against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City. Within minutes of the news breaking, the NBA had suspended its season indefinitely.
Thursday morning brought a similar wave of decisions across the sports world. The MLS suspended their regular season as well, the MLB cancelled all Spring Training games and events and delayed Opening Day by at least two weeks, and certain NFL teams are now prohibiting their scouts and coaches from traveling.
The NHL and NHLPA followed suit by pausing their season, putting an unexpected stop to the sports world as we know it.
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Multiple factors play a part in this decision, with the primary one (and rightly so) being on the health and safety of players, fans, media, event staff, and all those working in the sports community. What’s perhaps even more frustrating is that there is no roadmap or timetable for an unprecedented event like this.
From the players on the ice, to the coaches, trainers, and staff behind the bench, to the fans in the seats, to every other media member and employee connected to the organization, there’s a sense of uncertainty now lingering.
“As I just told our employees here and the players are kind of in the same boat, we’re going to go to a flexible office work structure,” Dallas Stars President Brad Alberts said on a conference call on Thursday. “I’m encouraging the majority of people that don’t have something essential to get done to work from home.
“The most important thing for all of us right now in the short term is to try to stay healthy. None of us can control when games are going to be played again, the business, or any of that kind of stuff. It’s out of our hands. The one thing we can try to control right now is not spreading the virus and not getting sick because if it does, that changes things dramatically. The players are going to be at home.”
The Stars will follow up the pausing of games by also pausing all team events (including practices, meetings, and other appearances). Comerica Center has suspended all events through the month of March indefinitely as well.
“There is no practice and the guys will not be practicing at this point,” Alberts said. “Obviously, this is fluid and things can change. In the foreseeable and short-term future, there will not be practice.”
And now, the questions will rise regarding where the various sports leagues go from here, if players will be quarantined, if and when action will resume, how it will look, how this will affect teams from a business standpoint, and how this could change leagues in the long run.
And, as it stands at the moment, not many of those questions have concrete answers. A lot will be answered once a timetable is set. But when will that timetable be set? That’s anyone’s guess.
“I think what everyone is hoping for is that we take a short pause over the next several weeks and in a month or so, we can get the season back and reenergized,” Alberts said. “How that looks and whether you’re finishing the regular season or not, I don’t know. That’s what the League and leagues are going to have to figure out.
“We’re hoping that we can restart in a month or so. But again, that’s fluid. You guys will be able to figure out whether sports are going to be back by just following if the virus is growing or if it’s stabilizing.”
While the NHL and other professional and minor sports leagues (including the AHL) will continue to monitor the situation and stay in contact with The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there’s no real timetable as of right now. As a result of that, there’s no reason to try and guess or speculate.
"“We will continue to monitor all the appropriate medical advice, and we will encourage our players and other members of the NHL community to take all reasonable precautions — including by self-quarantine, where appropriate. 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. Until then, we thank NHL fans for your patience and hope you stay healthy.” — NHL’s statement on pausing the 2019-20 season"
The NHL has requested that every team send in the availability schedule for their respective arenas through July. What that means in regards to simply pushing the season back or possibly starting playoffs upon the return to action is unclear, which means there is still no point in trying to predict what happens next.
“They are looking at some of those scenarios and I think that’s all part of League planning,” Alberts said. “As I said earlier, if and when we come out of this, how do we come out? What are they going to do? Are they going to lengthen the season? Are we going to do away with the finishing of the regular season and just play some type of a playoff format, a different format, or the same format?
“All of those things are questions that probably nobody can answer at this point. We’ll just have to wait and see how this all plays out.”
As of right now, the Dallas Stars, the rest of the NHL, and professional and college sports across North America are coming to a halt. Players are staying away from their facilities, teams are taking precautions with employees, and everyone is trying to figure out what the next step is.
"“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.” — NHLPA statement on the pausing of the 2019-20 season"
Until then, however, stay cautious, healthy, and safe. Wash your hands frequently, avoid leaving the house if you feel under the weather, and monitor the CDC website for updates regarding the pandemic. The decision on when, or if, sports as a whole will resume will take plenty of care, focus, and time.
But as it stands right now, there are more pressing matters at hand.
Make sure to care for yourselves in every possible way during such an unexpected and unprecedented time.