The coronavirus (COVID-19) has infected nearly 100k people and killed more than 3,000 worldwide according to the New York Times. The virus is now present on every continent except Antarctica.
As countries try to contain its spread, two major hockey organizations have decided to cancel or suspend play in Europe and Asia where countries continue to report an increase in coronavirus cases.
The IIHF announced the cancellation of six World Championship tournaments for the under-18 category, Monday morning. The men’s and women’s tournaments were set to be held in Estonia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Luxembourg, Poland, and Spain throughout the month of March.
The IIHF has cancelled six World Championship tournaments in the Women's and Men's U18 category that were set to be held in March, due to the coronavirus situation. Story: https://t.co/3k92ElDxKs
— IIHF (@IIHFHockey) March 2, 2020
The IIHF said in a release that they will continue “to monitor the development of the coronavirus and will re-evaluate daily the capability of tournament organizers to host IIHF championships in April. Based on the developments of the coming weeks, the IIHF Council will be presented with a series of scenarios during its March meeting before deciding on the next course of action.”
The 2020 IIHF World Championship, a tourney many NHL players participate in, is set to be hosted from 8 to 24 May 2020 in Switzerland this year.
“I would like to thank the Medical Committee for their recommendation after very intense discussions over this weekend, I also thank our Council Members for their support of this recommendation in such challenging times,” IIHF President René Fasel said. “We will carefully evaluate on a daily basis the developments within our member countries.”
The National League A, where Capitals players such as Jonas Siegenthaler and Brooks Laich have once played, is also suspending play through March 15. The delay will impact the start of the National League playoffs. The league’s hand was forced after Switzerland’s government announced that gatherings of over 1,000 people would be banned from March 2 through 15.
Les Championnats de National League et de Swiss League sont suspendus jusqu'au 15 mars.
— MySports_CH_fr (@MySports_CH_fr) March 2, 2020
“In view of the current situation and the spread of the coronavirus, the Federal Council has categorized the situation in Switzerland as ‘special’ in terms of the Epidemics Act,” the Swiss Cabinet said in a statement. “Large-scale events involving more than 1,000 people are to be banned. The ban comes into immediate effect and will apply at least until 15 March.”
The National League A said in a release that four playoff games would be played “behind closed doors”, potentially in empty arenas, and the league decided to temporarily suspend play.
According to the match schedule, the quarterfinals of the National League playoffs were due to start on Saturday, March 7 and the semifinals of the Swiss League on Friday, March 6. Thus, a minimum of four playoff games in the National League and five games in the Swiss League would be played behind closed doors. Under these circumstances, the League and the clubs decided to temporarily suspend the National League and Swiss League championships until March 15.
Unless the authorities extend the ban, the quarterfinals of the National League playoffs and the classification rounds of the two divisions would start on Tuesday, March 17, while the semifinals of the Swiss League playoffs would resume the same day. A suitable match schedule would be published in due course.
The NLA is one of the biggest hockey leagues in Europe in Asia, including the SHL and KHL.
Meanwhile, the coronavirus has also created anxiety amongst players and teams throughout the NHL. In February, the Associated Press reported that CCM and Bauer have seen stick factories in China, where the epidemic erupted, close.
CBC reports that a Bauer facility that creates custom sticks in Tongxiang City in Zhejiang province was first closed in late January.
It’s not known if these facilities have reopened since then. Hockey equipment manufacturer Warrior is unaffected as its sticks are produced in Tijuana, Mexico.
Last month, Tyler Seguin, concerned about a possible stick shortage later in the season, returned to his mom’s house near Toronto to pick up two sticks he had left in her garage.
Players typically go through 100 or more sticks per season (top players like Alex Ovechkin go through more). Estimates range from 1,600 sticks for a full team to 50k across the entire NHL.
The only sticks affected are ones that are custom created. AHL players and beer league players will not see any impact as the companies have backup stock in Canada and the United States.
Warrior said in a statement that, “We are ready and committed to help the NHL and its players meet hockey stick demand if the need arises. Our thoughts remain with those whose health is being impacted by this health crisis.”
Update: ESPN’s Emily Kaplan spoke directly to Bill Daly at the NHL general managers’ meeting in Boca Raton, FL. Depending on how much the coronavirus spreads, Daly would not rule out postponing or canceling games or potentially playing games in empty arenas. However, he said it was “very unlikely.” Daly also addressed the stick factories that had closed weeks ago in China.
“The plants are up and running,” Daly said to Kaplan. “We were on top of that situation early. We assessed the supply issues. Certain clubs may have had issues if the shutdown was prolonged, but the manufacturing plants are up and running again. So all good on that front.”
Headline photo: Pixabay
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