Over the weekend, the NHL reportedly madein order to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus outbreak. It didn't initially seem like a league-wide policy, as some teams immediately implemented the restrictions while others were less urgent to make changes.
But on Monday afternoon the NHL officially made a major precautionary decision to combat the pandemic. The four North American major professional sports leagues currently in-season -- MLB, MLS, NBA and NHL -- have decided to close their locker room and clubhouse doors to the media and all non-essential personnel indefinitely.
"After consultation with infectious disease and public health experts, and given the issues that can be associated with close contact in pre- and post-game settings, all team locker rooms and clubhouses will be open only to players and essential employees of teams and team facilities until further notice," read a joint public statement from the four leagues. "Media access will be maintained in designated locations outside of the locker room and clubhouse setting. These changes will be effective beginning with tomorrow's games and practices.
"We will continue to closely monitor this situation and take any further steps necessary to maintain a safe and welcoming environment."
The AP Sports Editors issued a joint statement with six professional writers organizations -- including the Pro Hockey Writers Association -- in response to the decision to ban media from the locker rooms.
"We the entities covering pro and college sports in North America are concerned with the developing international outbreak of coronavirus and the need to contain it," read the APSE statement. "We understand precautions may be necessary in the name of public health. We are intent on working with the leagues, teams and schools we cover to maintain safe work environments. We also must ensure the locker room access — which we have negotiated over decades — to players, coaches and staff is not unnecessarily limited in either the short or long term. We look forward to open communication with the leagues as, together, we deal with this serious health matter. "
The decision comes as the virus continues to spread across the globe. Coronavirus cases have been rising steadily in the United States recently and there's growing concern that the virus will jeopardize (or at least have an adverse impact on) a number of upcoming major sporting events, including the Stanley Cup playoffs. The first major pro American sporting event was canceled over the weekend when the ATP scratched the Indian Wells Masters tennis tournament because the Coachella Valley in California is under a public health emergency.
There has been speculation that the next step could be shutting out fans from arenas and stadiums, with sporting events being played in empty venues.