NHL suspends season amid coronavirus concerns

NEW YORK (WTVD) -- The National Hockey League has followed suit of other professional sports leagues and announced Thursday that it is suspending the season.

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There are 189 games and three and a half weeks remaining in the NHL's regular season. There were 10 games on the NHL slate Thursday. The Carolina Hurricanes were scheduled to play at the New Jersey Devils on Thursday night.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman released the following statement regarding the 2019-20 NHL season:

"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.

"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.

"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. 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. Until then, we thank NHL fans for your patience and hope you stay healthy."

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The NHL began preparing for a stoppage on Thursday morning when it advised all teams to cancel morning skates, practices or team meetings. Earlier this week, the league adopted a new media policy that prevented reporters from entering the dressing room.

The NHL was already preparing to play games later this month in San Jose, California and Columbus, Ohio with no spectators -- per orders from local governments.

There have previously been two seasons in NHL history where the Stanley Cup was not awarded: in 1918-19 because of the Spanish flu and 2004-05 because of a lockout.

Earlier Thursday, The Atlantic Coast Conference, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and Southeastern Conference all canceled their basketball tournaments because of concerns about coronavirus, putting the playing of the NCAA tournament in doubt. The Big East suspended play at halftime at its tournament Thursday.

ESPN's Emily Kaplan contributed to this report.
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