NHL follows NBA’s lead, opts to suspend 2019-20 season amid coronavirus outbreak

(Photo by Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

On Tuesday night in Philadelphia, the Bruins became the first team to reach the coveted 100-point threshold during the 2019-20 NHL season — secured off of a convincing 2-0 victory against the Flyers.  

Reaching triple digits in the standings was just another small milestone in a long list of accolades that Bruce Cassidy’s club secured through the first 70 games of this regular-season campaign. In the grand scheme of things, a spot atop the standings and a potential Presidents’ Trophy meant very little to this Bruins team other than added validation — another feather in the cap towards the ultimate goal of redeeming last year’s crushing loss to St. Louis and hoisting the greatest trophy in sports. 

But they may not get the chance this year. 

The NHL announced Thursday afternoon that due to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, it is suspending the 2019-20 season effective immediately — with the hope of eventually resuming play and commencing the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the near future. 

Here’s the full statement from the NHL: 

“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.”

In the immediate aftermath of the NBA opting to suspend its season due to Rudy Gobert reportedly testing positive due to coronavirus, the NHL released a statement late Wednesday night that it was consulting “with medical experts” and evaluating its options. However, given both the spread of the outbreak and the number of shared facilities between NBA and NHL franchises, it seemed like Thursday’s announcement was inevitable. 

The Bruins were originally set to practice on Thursday morning at Warrior Ice Arena before catching a team flight to Buffalo for Friday’s matchup against their Atlantic-Division foe in the Sabres. 

However, the league’s PR office announced just about an hour ahead of the scheduled practice that all morning skates, team meetings and media availabilities should be avoided. The Bruins promptly put a hold on all scheduled events.

While the hope is that the NHL will be able to resume operations in short order, obviously this will remain a fluid conversation and situation between the league, the NHLPA and numerous other parties.

There are many options that would be on the table, with TSN’s Frank Seravalli noting that teams have been asked to look at venue availability stretching into July. The cancelling of the remainder of the regular season, shorter opening rounds of the playoffs and other measures will all likely be on the table.

At this point, any adjustments, as unorthodox as they may be, will be a welcome sight over the worst-case scenario — in which the 2019-20 season, and a promising Cup run for the Bruins, is snuffed out.