NHL, MLB take action to protect players, public from COVID-19

Mar 12, 2020 | News, Sports

The Scotiabank Arena in Toronto ready for gameday prior to the suspension of league games. (Canadian Press)

Sean Marco

The National Hockey League is suspending its season due to the COVID-19 pandemic and Major League Baseball has postponed the start of the regular season by at least two weeks and cancelled the rest of spring training.  

“The NHL has been attempting to follow mandates of health experts and local authorities while preparing for any possible developments without taking premature or unnecessary measures,” Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. 

The official announcements came a day after the NBA put the season on hold due to a player on the Utah Jazz contracting the virus.

The NHL has decided to follow the NBA’s lead due to the fact many of the teams share the same venues, facilities and locker rooms. 

With 189 games left in the regular season, the NHL still plans to continue the season. 

“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,” Bettman said.

Rudy Gobert (left) and Donovan Mitchell (right) are the first two to test positive of the COVID-19 virus in the NBA. (Melissa Majchrzak)

The NBA’s announcement came after the news that Utah Jazz centre, Rudy Gobert testing positive for the coronavirus prior to their match-up against the Oklahoma City Thunder. 

Players were going through their usual warmup routines as the stadium was filling up with fans, then the game was abruptly postponed right before tip-off. 

Gobert wasn’t in the arena at the time but the NBA took the measures of cancelling the game as other team players and staff could have contacted the virus. 

Gobert, who was already listed as questionable to play in the game due to an “undetermined illness,” tested negative for influenza, strep throat, and an upper respiratory infection but a pregame test for COVID-19 returned a preliminary positive result. 

The Utah Jazz players were kept in quarantine for testing while the Oklahoma City Thunder staff and players were sent home but were asked to monitor their health. 

A second Utah Jazz player, star guard Donovan Mitchell, was tested positive on Thursday morning but was the only one that has the coronavirus among the 58 others who were tested.

“We are working closely with the CDC, Oklahoma and Utah state officials and the NBA to monitor their health and determine the best path moving forward,” said the Utah Jazz in a news release. 

Teams that the Jazz have played the last 10 days are the Cleveland Cavaliers, New York Knicks, Boston Celtics, Detroit Pistons, and Toronto Raptors, all of which have been advised to self-quarantine. 

Members of the Toronto Raptors organization were also advised to self-quarantine for the next two weeks and are currently waiting for the test results. 

Josh Kern, editor at Raptors HQ, said “The Raptors were in close contact with Gobert so it obviously applies to them.”

Two people attended public events on Wednesday. 

Coach Nick Nurse launched a charity foundation and Norman Powell had a bowling tournament but the team says the public is not at risk unless they are diagnosed with COVID-19.

Not only players and organizations are being affected by the pandemic, but referees are also involved. 

A match-up between the Sacramento Kings and New Orleans Pelicans was postponed due to the fact that referee Courtney Kirkland was present. 

Kirkland was officiating the game between the Jazz and Raptors in Salt Lake City on Monday.

There were several games underway at the time of the announcement but they were played out.

The New York Knicks beat the Atlanta Hawks 136-131, the Dallas Mavericks beat the Denver Nuggets 113-97, and the Philadelphia 76ers beat the Detroit Pistons 124-106. 

Two of these teams have come into contact with the Utah Jazz but there are no news on them yet. 

Real Madrid soccer fan wears mask during a soccer match. (Anadolu Agency, Getty Images)

The COVID-19 virus has also affected other major sports leagues around the world. 

NCAA basketball has cancelled March Madness, Big East, Big 12, Big Ten, SEC, ACC, Pac-12, Atlantic-10, Western Athletic Conference, and American Athletic Conference tournaments.

The MLS season had just started but they put the league on pause for 30 days.

The NFL has no plans to move the league year as they are in their offseason, with only free-agency starting on Mar. 18. 

Across the pond, Real Madrid has been quarantined as a player from the basketball club has the virus but fears of spreading it to the soccer club is present due to the fact that they share the same training facilities.