In the wake of the growing concern for public safety, the NHL has officially suspended the 2019-2020 NHL season until further notice. This comes on the heels of numerous other professional sports leagues around the world taking the same precautions to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, COVID-19.
Initially there was significant discussion around the feasibility of mitigating the spread of the virus while trying to maintain the integrity of the season by playing games in front of empty stadiums. This idea seemed to gain some traction with things like Europe League games and the Big West Tournament announcing they would be taking place without fans in attendance. Other leagues however, have made announcements leaving the decision of whether to continue having fan attendance in the hands of the general public.
All that seemed to change though, once two NBA players tested positive for coronavirus causing the NBA to suspend play indefinitely and quarantine the team involved on the road. The NHL released a statement shortly after the NBA’s decision was announced last night saying they were aware of the league’s decisions and would continue to meet with medical experts and monitor the situation before coming to any kind of a similair conclusion.
Ultimately, after what we can assume were hours of meetings with league officials, owners, and the NHLPA, the league will be making the difficult but necessary decision to do their part in helping prevent the spread of this disease that has already claimed the lives of nearly 4,300 people worldwide. The World Health Organization estimates the number of infected persons to be north of 118,000, while CNN has the US tally at just over 1,200 documented cases.
Given that Italian Prime Minister Giusepe Conte essentially quarantined the entirety of Italy due to the devastating effects of what the WHO is now calling a pandemic, it would seem that suspending league operations is the least the NHL can do. While this decision was surely not made lightly, it is surely the most pragmatic given the circumstances. This decision will undoubtedly have significant negative effects on the thousands of workers in the United States and Canada who depend on the league to make a living, and we hope that the league office and ownership will do the right thing by them in the face of such an unexpected and inexplicable event.
It remains unknown at this time how this suspension will impact the remainder of the season. It is entirely possible that if the situation continues to worsen that the season could simply be cancelled and the league would then resume at some point in the 2020-21 season when it was deemed safe and appropriate.
Should play ultimately resume for the 2019-20 season, truncating and/or compacting the remainder of the season to solve any games played discrepancies given the tight races surrounding the wild card spots in both conferences is one option that would surely be considered. The second option would be to end the regular season as is and use points percentage for the final standings in order to eliminate the aforementioned disparities in games played. Should the final option ultimately be chosen, it would have no effect on Anaheim’s lottery odds, and a minimal impact on the lottery in general.
The playoffs however, could look quite different. Bryan Bastin, from On The Forecheck has made a nifty little graph here to show exactly what the playoff picture would look like should the season ultimately be ended prematurely and resume immediately with the start of the playoffs.
Our hearts here at Anaheim Calling go out to all those around the world who have been effected by this tragedy. While the immediate history of such an event will be judged by the actions of those in power, the enduring memories from this will be of the depth and breadth of our humanity and empathy towards one another.
Stay safe and take care of each other.