The NHL announced in a statement Thursday that the regular season is suspended amid concerns over 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.
Bettman added that the league will try to resume games "as soon as it is appropriate and prudent" and hopes that the pause will not affect the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The news comes less than 24 hours after theWednesday night. Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert reportedly tested positive for coronavirus before his team's game and on Thursday, his teammate, Donovan Mitchell also tested positive. The NHL currently shares 11 arenas with the NBA -- three of which hosted the Jazz's last three road games (Detroit, Boston, New York). Bettman said that played a large role in the decision to pause the NHL season.
"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. 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," he said.
Prior to Thursday's decision to shut down for the time being, multiple teams -- including the Columbus Blue Jackets and San Jose Sharks -- had announced plans to close their arenas to the public and play scheduled games without fans through the end of the month.
The league's regular season schedule is scheduled to run through April 4th with the playoffs slated to begin four days later on Wednesday, April 8. It's not yet known how the postponement will affect either of those timelines but, according to TSN's Frank Seravalli, the league has asked clubs to provide arena building availability through the end of July.