NHL postpones 2019-20 season indefinitely, including Blackhawks’ final 12 games
The NHL announced Thursday that it will follow the NBA’s lead and postpone the ongoing season because of coronavirus concerns.
The Blackhawks’ season was put on hold indefinitely when the NHL announced Thursday that its 2019-20 campaign is ‘‘paused’’ because of coronavirus concerns.
‘‘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,’’ commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement.
The Hawks had been scheduled to play 12 more games through the regular-season finale April 4 against the Rangers in New York. A home game Friday against the Senators and a road game Saturday against the Capitals were next up. The Hawks also were to host the Wild on March 19,the Predators on March 22, the Penguins on March 25, the Stars on March 27, the Kings on March 29 and the Canadiens on March 31.
Those games definitely won’t happen on their scheduled days, and given that no details are available about how long the postponement might last or whether the regular season will be resumed in full, it’s fair to question whether they will happen at all.
‘‘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. ‘‘Until then, we thank NHL fans for your patience and hope you stay healthy.’’
If the regular season doesn’t resume, the Hawks at least went out on a high note — defeating the Sharks 6-2 at home Wednesday — despite a disappointing season. They’ll be stuck at 32-30-8 for 72 points, six out of a playoff spot, for the time being.
Wing Patrick Kane, defenseman Duncan Keith and coach Jeremy Colliton were visibly shaken after the game Wednesday, having not learned during it that the NBA had postponed its season.
‘‘This is a first for us, to be in this situation,’’ Keith said Wednesday. ‘‘You kind of have to leave it up to some of the people in charge to make those decisions on what they feel is best and have faith that they know what they’re doing. You never want to see anybody — let alone an athlete or an NBA player — have to go through it.’’
The entire situation moved stunningly quickly.
The first indication that the coronavirus’ spread would affect the NHL didn’t come until late Monday, when Santa Clara County in California banned large public gatherings, affecting five scheduled Sharks games.
The next day, a new policy barring media and other non-essential people from locker rooms went into effect, but the Hawks were lighthearted about the situation after practice Tuesday.
‘‘As long as we don’t pick our nose too much, we should be good,’’ defenseman Connor Murphy joked.
On Wednesday, the Sharks and Blue Jackets announced they would play their remaining home games without fans, but a capacity crowd of 21,275 attended the Hawks’ game. It wasn’t until the news of the NBA postponement that the season seemed truly in jeopardy.
The Hawks initially were supposed to practice Thursday but canceled that several hours before Bettman’s announcement.
All sorts of proposals have been floated for a revised playoff format once hockey resumes. But unless the NHL adopts a format that admits 24 teams, the Hawks won’t reach the postseason.