The NHL joined several other major sports leagues and organizations by halting their season due to the coronavirus outbreak this week. The league announced Wednesday that they would press pause on the 2019-2020 season until further notice. This means that no NHL games will take place until the league determines it's safe to start things back up.
You may have some questions as to what this all means and where we go from here, so here's what you should know.
Is the season over?
No, not officially. The league is suspending operations but hopes to resume the season "as soon as it is appropriate and prudent." What the future holds is unclear, but the NHL hopes to resume the season as quickly as possible.
When could games resume?
The league has no specific timetable for a return to action but is leaving its options open for a quick return once it is considered appropriate. The league's regular season 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.
How will teams proceed in the meantime?
As part of the suspension, NHL teams will not be allowed to travel, nor will they be permitted to hold meetings or practices. At the moment, players and team personnel are being told to go home and self-quarantine.
How could this affect the Stanley Cup playoffs?
If the league decides it can return to action in time to finish out the regular season in some fashion, the league may elect to push back the start date of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. According to a report from TSN's Frank Seravalli, the league has asked clubs to provide arena building availability through the end of July, so it's possible that we could see the playoffs extend through that period.
How would the league decide playoff seeding if the regular season is canceled?
If the NHL is ultimately forced to forego the rest of the regular season and start the playoffs based on the current standings, it's likely that points percentage would be used to determine playoff seeding. Points percentage is the percentage of points a team has accrued in the standings based on their maximum possible point total.
Here's how the first round would be seeded based on the current standings:
- Boston Bruins (Atlantic 1) vs. New York Islanders (Wild Card 2)
- Tampa Bay Lightning (Atlantic 2) vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (Atlantic 3)
- Washington Capitals (Metro 1) vs. Carolina Hurricanes (Wild Card 1)
- Philadelphia Flyers (Metro 2) vs. Pittsburgh Penguins (Metro 3)
- St. Louis Blues (Central 1) vs. Calgary Flames (Wild Card 2)
- Colorado Avalanche (Central 2) vs. Dallas Stars (Central 3)
- Vegas Golden Knights (Pacific 1) vs. Nashville Predators (Wild Card 1)
- Edmonton Oilers (Pacific 2) vs. Vancouver Canucks (Pacific 3)
What is the justification for pausing the season?
The league has decided to to halt action in order to prevent the further spread of coronavirus. After Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert tested positive for coronavirus on Wednesday, the NBA immediately suspended its season in order to prevent the bug from spreading through the league. The NHL has decided to take the same precautions.
Here's a piece of the league's official release on Thursday: "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."
Have any NHL players been diagnosed with coronavirus?
As of Thursday, no NHL players are known to have been diagnosed with coronavirus. However, the league shares 11 venues with the NBA, so the threat of NHL players and personnel being infected was raised following Gobert's positive test on Wednesday.