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NHL ‘evaluating the options’ after NBA suspends play

The NHL expects to have an update on Thursday with its plans for play.
Will the crowds flocking to see the Lightning be quietened soon because of coronavirus concerns? [DIRK SHADD  |  Times]
Will the crowds flocking to see the Lightning be quietened soon because of coronavirus concerns? [DIRK SHADD | Times]

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The coronavirus pandemic has put the future of the Lightning’s season in question, including Thursday’s scheduled game against the Flyers.

The NHL released a statement Wednesday night that reads: “The National Hockey League is aware of the NBA’s decision tonight to indefinitely suspend its season due to a player testing positive for the coronavirus. The NHL is continuing to consult with medical experts and is evaluating the options. We expect to have a further update tomorrow.”

Related: Tampa Bay fans waiting two years for March Madness and 'now it's gone'

A Utah Jazz player tested positive for coronavirus after tipoff of Wednesday’s game against Oklahoma City. Center Rudy Gobert was declared out of the game with an illness and was not in the building for the game. After canceling the game, the NBA announced it was suspending play “until further notice.”

Gobert touched every microphone, phone and recorder on the table in front of him Tuesday after the NBA, NHL, MLB and MLS closed the locker rooms to media and instituted a news conference set up.

The NHL, which shares buildings with the NBA in 11 cities, could similarly decide to suspend the season. The league could also go the route of the NCAA and play in empty arenas.

The NCAA announced Wednesday afternoon that it will play its postseason tournament without fans, just essential team personnel and players’ families.

Two NHL teams were already planning to play in empty arenas. After the county of Santa Clara and the state of Ohio banned events with more than 1,000 people, both San Jose and Columbus announced they would close their arenas to the public.

Both organizations will allow home and visiting team personnel, credentialed media and broadcast partners, essential club and arena staff and league officials. It is not yet clear who will be considered essential staff.

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Tampa Bay Times coronavirus guide

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PROTECT YOURSELF: Household cleaners can kill the virus on most surfaces, including your phone screen.

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FACE MASKS: They offer some protection, but studies debate their effectiveness.

WORKPLACE RISK: A list of five things employers could be doing to help curb the spread of the disease.

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

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