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NHL to close locker rooms to media due to coronavirus concerns

Some teams have closed their locker rooms in advance of the official memo, but the Lightning’s remains open for now.
Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos addresses the media during a press conferences Thursday, April 18, 2019 at Amalie Arena in Tampa. The Lightning was swept by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round of the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs. [SHADD, DIRK  |  Tampa Bay Times]
Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos addresses the media during a press conferences Thursday, April 18, 2019 at Amalie Arena in Tampa. The Lightning was swept by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round of the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs. [SHADD, DIRK | Tampa Bay Times]

BOSTON — The NHL plans to close all teams’ locker rooms to media due to coronavirus concens.

As the virus, officially known as COVID-19, continues to spread, the league is expected to send out a memo Monday instructing teams to close their rooms. All media access would be conducted by scrums and news conferences outside the rooms.

Some teams, including the Wild, Hurricanes, Flames and Rangers, closed their locker rooms Saturday in advance of the memo. The league left it up to individual teams for now. Those playing games this weekend need both teams to agree to close their rooms. The Lightning’s and Bruins’ rooms remained open for their game Saturday night.

The Lightning will follow the league’s direction but had not received official word. They play again Sunday in Detroit; there is no indication what the situation will be there.

Related: Can the Lightning beat the Bruins in the game ... the Atlantic Division ... or a playoff series

Closing the locker rooms limits the players’ access to five to 25 members of the media on a given game night, depending on the market. The Lightning have about 10 external media members in their locker room after home games.

Addressing reporters in Sunrise, commissioner Gary Bettman said decisions are currently being made on the team level but the league is looking into a league-wide policy. He also said any changes will be temporary, due only to the coronavirus.

The league has already recommended players avoid physical contact with fans. The NHL has also discontinued work travel outside North America.

Officials previously expressed that the league would consider playing in empty arenas if it became necessary. The Sharks, however, have played two homes games, including Saturday, since the Santa Clara County (Calif.) Public Health Department recommended cancelling large gatherings like sporting events because of the virus. There are 24 reported cases in Santa Clara County.

There are three known cases in Tampa Bay and 11 in Florida. The Lightning have not yet made plans to change anything else at this time. They are on the road until Thursday.

Contact Diana C. Nearhos at dnearhos@tampabay.com. Follow @dianacnearhos.

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