On ice: NHL ‘pausing’ season amid coronavirus pandemic

Nashville Predators goaltender Juuse Saros (74) makes a save on Montreal Canadiens right wing Brendan Gallagher (11) during the third period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, March 10, 2020, in Montreal. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press via AP)

The NHL is placing its season on ice — for now.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said Thursday the league will “pause” its season, effective immediately, because of the coronavirus pandemic. The move came one day after the NBA suspended play after a player tested positive Wednesday for COVID-19.

“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. “However, 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.”

The NHL Players’ Association backed the decision, calling it “an appropriate course of action at this time” and adding: “The players are looking forward to the opportunity to resume play in front of hockey fans everywhere.”

The NHL is halting play with 189 games left in the season and uncertainty about how many more — if any — could be played before the playoffs, which typically begin in early April. A handful of European hockey leagues have already called off the remainder of their seasons.

“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,” Bettman said. “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.”

The NBA suspended its season after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19 His teammate, Donovan Mitchell, also tested positive.

The NHL has not said any player has tested positive for COVID-19.

According to the AP, MLB is likely to cancel spring training as well.