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NHL advises next steps after pausing season for coronavirus concerns

The league offered some loose guidelines on Friday morning, a day after the NHL announced it was pausing its season.
The Tampa Bay Lightning locker room doors are seen amidst any empty Amalie Arena on Thursday. [CHRIS URSO      |  Times]
The Tampa Bay Lightning locker room doors are seen amidst any empty Amalie Arena on Thursday. [CHRIS URSO | Times]

TAMPA — The NHL’s deputy commissioner Bill Daly issued a loose outline for the league’s players in the wake of pausing the season due to coronavirus concerns.

The Lightning was scheduled to play the Flyers at home on Thursday night, followed by a back-to-back series beginning Saturday. The league, however, canceled all morning skates and team meetings about 30 minutes before they were expected to take the ice Thursday morning. Lightning players left the arena soon after the announcement.

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Bill Daly spoke on some guidelines for players and clubs Friday morning. The NHL deputy commissioner recommended that players stay in the same general area of their club’s home city, however, they would not keep players away from their families in situations where the player is separated from his home because of his club’s city residence.

Daly also said the league sees a transition period ahead where hopefully players can return to their club facilities for voluntary workouts and skates in small groups.

The NHL Commissioner added that the league would not mandate testing for players, however, if they experience symptoms or becomes sick they will be “tested as appropriate.” The league is also not recommending informal skates for now.

Pierre LeBrun, of The Athletic, reported that Daly is not anticipating cutting next year’s regular season shorter than normal if this season runs into July and/or August.

The NHL’s decision to pause their season came a day after a Utah Jazz player tested positive for the coronavirus. The NBA released a statement Wednesday night that their season is suspended in wake of the virus. Since then, a second Utah Jazz player has tested positive for the coronavirus.

The Lightning followed the Jazz around this past weekend, sharing the same arenas a day after Utah played in both Detroit and Boston. But the Lightning confirmed their spaces in both cities had been deep cleaned and sanitized. They also immediately notified their players of the minimal risk.

Related: Had tickets to a now canceled sports event? Here's how to get a refund.

After the NHL decided to pause its season, many other hockey leagues joined in, including the Canadien Hockey League (and its three regional leagues), the AHL and the ECHL.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said no NHL player has tested positive for the coronavirus to the best of his knowledge in an interview on CNBC.

“I’m a little hesitant to use the word suspension, because our hope and our expectation is, when things get back to normal and it’s safe and it’s prudent, that we can go back and resume the season and ultimately have the Stanley Cup awarded,” he said in the interview.

As of Friday morning, Bettman would not put a timetable on when the NHL would resume its season. The idea of reopening play with empty arenas — without fans — is also not out of the picture, either.

“And so it’s a bit of a puzzle, and part of the problem is, we don’t know what all the pieces are yet,” Bettman said on Friday.

“It’s going to evolve. We’re looking at all contingencies, and when the circumstances are right that we can play, then we’ll look at what we can do,” he said in Thursday’s interview. “My hope is that at some point we’ll get back to some normalcy, and that’s not just my hope for the NHL, and it’s not just my hope for all sports, it’s my hope for everything that’s going on.”

Contact Mari Faiello at mfaiello@tampabay.com. Follow @faiello_mari.

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