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NHL limits travel by league employees over coronavirus

The Lightning and other teams are free to adopt similar policies, commissioner Gary Bettman says.
FILE - In this Sept. 13, 2012, file photo, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman listens as he meets with reporters after a meeting with team owners in New York. The National Hockey Leage Players' Association announces its decision whether to terminate the current collective bargaining agreement and set the clock ticking toward another potential work stoppage in 2020. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)
FILE - In this Sept. 13, 2012, file photo, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman listens as he meets with reporters after a meeting with team owners in New York. The National Hockey Leage Players' Association announces its decision whether to terminate the current collective bargaining agreement and set the clock ticking toward another potential work stoppage in 2020. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File) [ MARY ALTAFFER | AP ]
Published Mar. 5, 2020

BOCA RATON — The NHL is not allowing its employees to make work-related trips outside North America in response to the global fears over the coronavirus, and if any of those employees go on their own to a country where the virus has been found, they will be quarantined before being able to return to work.

Commissioner Gary Bettman said Wednesday the league has told its 31 teams they were free to adopt a similar policy, though he stopped short of saying it would be a mandate as concerns of the virus continue to grow.

“We barred all travel outside of North America for business purposes,” Bettman said on the final day of general managers meetings. “People at a personal level or people in their households are still free to do what they want to do. If you go to a place that’s on the list of countries that have an issue or while you’re there the country comes on the list, then when you come back, we want you quarantined … for two weeks until we can see if symptoms develop.”

That applies even to those who work for the central scouting service: Scouts who are in Europe are staying in Europe, and if they return to North America, they will be quarantined. Bettman said the NHL is in regular communication with the other three major North American pro sports leagues, as well as health experts in the United States and Canada.

The NHL hasn’t gone as far as the NBA did this week. The NBA sent a memo to teams Sunday suggesting that players limit high fives with fans and be hesitant to touch markers and items in autograph situations. Some NBA players have said they won’t give autographs for the time being, and others are carrying their own markers to group-signing scrums.

The NHL isn’t at the point of calling off games with the playoffs scheduled to start next month, Bettman said. “We’re aware of and focused on all possibilities,” he said.

The Staples Center in Los Angeles will continue hosting NHL and NBA games, even after Los Angeles county officials declared a coronavirus-related public health emergency Wednesday. The arena will add more hand sanitizers, officials said in a statement.

In other GM meeting topics:

• The salary cap is projected to be between $84 million and $88.2 million for next season.

• Bettman insisted that the new puck to be used in the new player- and puck-tracking plans beginning with the playoffs is not going to change the way the game is played and that the puck will perform exactly as the current one does.

Information from Times news services was used in this report.