How the Coronavirus Outbreak is Affecting the NHL and Worldwide Hockey Leagues: Santa Clara County to Ban All Large Gatherings, Sharks “Will Adhere to the Mandated Guidelines”; More European Leagues Shut Down

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The outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19) has forced cancellations and postponement for various sports, leagues, and events worldwide. In California on Monday, Santa Clara County will ban all large gatherings effective midnight Wednesday and will remain in effect through the month of March. The San Jose Sharks, who play home games at the SAP Center in Santa Clara, announced in a statement on Monday that they “will adhere to the mandated guidelines.” The Sharks will be providing an update in the coming days. Elsewhere, more European leagues have shut down because of health concerns. The recent cancellation is Germany’s top pro hockey league having to end their season and not crown a champion.

San Jose Sharks

Various Sharks players spoke to the media today following the team’s announcement:

The Sharks will be impacted by this ban at the SAP Center: March 19 vs. the Montréal Canadiens, March 21 vs. the Boston Bruins and March 29 vs. the Arizona Coyotes. In April, San Jose does host the Dallas Stars on April 2 and the Anaheim Ducks on April 4.

The NHL is aware of the ban and has prepared the following options:

  • Play in an empty building
  • Play in visitors building
  • Postpone/reschedule
  • Neutral site

The first coronavirus-related death in Santa Clara County was announced on Monday with over 130 known cases within the state of California. Thirty-seven have been reported in Santa Clara County.

Around the NHL

Two other teams are taking precautions: the New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers.

The Devils are asking fans in specific categories not to attend tonight’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins or any others for the rest of the season. The team has not released an official statement.

A little down south, Philadelphia city officials announced on Tuesday that they are recommending people not attend gatherings of more than 5,000 people. Wells Fargo Center, home of the Flyers, holds 19,500 spectators. Again, the team has not released an official statement.

The NHL, along with the NBA, MLB, and MLS released a joint statement on Monday temporarily limiting locker room access to players and essential staff:

“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. 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.”

European Leagues

Hockey leagues in Europe have also been affected. On Tuesday, the Deutsche Eishockey Liga (DEL), a pro league in Germany, canceled the remainder of its season and that includes the playoffs. There will be no German champion this year.

Gernot Tripcke, managing director of DEL, issued this statement on Tuesday:

“We are extremely sorry for all clubs, partners and especially fans all over Germany that we have to make this decision. However, given the current developments, we have a duty to deal responsibly with the situation. We at DEL focus on the health of our fans, players and employees.”

As of now, DEL joins the Austrian Hockey League (EBEL [Czech Republic, Italy and Hungary]) as leagues in Europe to end their season.

The deadly Coronavirus was one of many topics discussed during last week’s NHL general managers meeting in Boca Raton, Florida. The league is taking additional precautions for the health of players, coaches, and all staff, and have advised that players and staff of all clubs wash hands and various equipment frequently to prevent any spread.

Coronavirus also forced the IIHF to cancel tournaments. Leagues and sports worldwide have been playing some games without fans amid the growing spread. The Kunlun Red Star, an ice hockey club located in Beijing, of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) moved its games to Russia for the remainder of the season due to the outbreak.

We will continue to update on how COVID-19 is affecting the NHL and other worldwide leagues. For updates and more information about the Coronavirus, click here.

By Della Young

About Della Young

Della Young is an aspiring novelist and screenwriter who earned a BFA in Creative Writing from Full Sail University in 2021. She comes from a family of big Capitals fans and became inspired to start writing for hockey in 2019. In her spare time, Della enjoys traveling, cooking, and working on both sides of the camera. Follow Della on Twitter: @dellayoung
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