NHL Suspended Indefinitely Due to Coronavirus
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the National Hockey League announced today that it will suspend all operations indefinitely. This follows the NBA's announcement that they will also suspend play after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert became the first athlete in the four major sports to test positive for coronavirus (his teammate, Donovan Mitchell, also tested positive). Major League Soccer is suspending play for at least 30 days. Major League Baseball also announced that Spring Training is over and the start of the regular season will be delayed by at least two weeks. Dozens of European hockey and soccer leagues have either postponed or cancelled their seasons due to the outbreak.
This was no doubt a difficult decision for the NHL to make. I love hockey, and if you're reading this, you probably do, too. This has been an incredible season for the Flyers thus far; the team is sixth in the NHL, putting up their best numbers since 2011-12. This comes despite losing 2017 #2 overall pick Nolan Patrick to migraine disorder, 2013 1st round pick Sam Morin to his second torn ACL in 18 months, and Oskar Lindblom to cancer, who was tied for the team lead in goals at the time of his diagnosis.
Now, the NHL is closing up its doors for the first time since a lockout delayed the start of the 2012-13 season by about three months. The NHL may not be able to award the Stanley Cup for the third time in its history (2005 - lockout, 1919 - Spanish Flu), although their press release stated, "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."
But it remains to be seen when and if this will happen. Frank Seravalli of TSN reported the NHL asked teams for available home dates through the end of July. This could be a problem for the Flyers, as the Wells Fargo Center was scheduled to undergo renovations in the summer that were supposed to begin on May 3rd or when both the Flyers and 76ers had been eliminated. Another issue is that player's contracts technically expire July 1, 2020, which could create roster dilemmas if the season is pushed beyond June.
It's an absolutely stunning and heartbreaking setback to an amazing hockey season. The fact it comes during a Flyers renaissance makes it even harder to handle. Unfortunately, this terrible disease has spread too quickly and is too harmful to be taken lightly. The US has already banned travel from China and Europe, and with Gobert serving as an example to what kind of havoc players contracting this disease could bring, professional leagues really have no other choice right now.
How the NHL season progresses from here remains to be seen. Hopefully, the league picks up relatively quickly and the playoffs go on. However, it is a legitimate possibility that the format may have to be alerted to expedite the playoffs, if they even take place at all. A lot of people have suggested using today's standings to determine the playoffs, which would be a tough blow for teams on the wrong side of the bubble like the Rangers, Wild, and more.
It's a tough blow for us all to deal with. As someone who watches every game with a fervor, celebrates every goal with passion (and by blasting the goal horn/soon in my living room), and has written probably about 100,000 words about this team, it's an even tougher pill to swallow. We are truly in uncharted territory now. Pray for the best.