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Coronavirus and the NHL: Tracking how the pandemic has impacted hockey's landscape

Sporting News — customerservice@sportingnews.com (Sporting News)

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has led to the suspensions of most sports in North America.

After the NBA suspended its season Wednesday night, the NHL was one of many leagues to follow suit on March 12 announcing it would be pausing the season.

Here's a timeline of events of how the coronavirus has impacted the league.

(All times Eastern)

March 28

1:16 p.m. — The Colorado Avalanche announced that a second unnamed player has tested positive for the coronavirus and he's currently in self-isolation.

"All other Avalanche players, staff and others who might have had close contact with the player and have been informed and remain isolated per prior League direction and are monitoring their health and will be in touch with Club medical staff as necessary," the team statement said. "No other Avalanche players or staff members have shown symptoms at this time." 

March 27

9:20 p.m. — Ottawa radio analyst Gord Wilson, a longtime commentator for Senators games on TSN 1200, confirms his positive test for COVID-19. Wilson self-isolated from his family after returning from the Senators' California road trip March 12.

“It’s hit me hard enough,” Wilson told the Ottawa Sun. “I haven’t felt good for two weeks. The worst was last weekend. So I’m hitting a week here at least with shortness of breath and feeling lethargic. I walk up a flight of steps here and I’m out of breath.

“The biggest thing is the lack of taste and smell. I’m down about eight or nine pounds. I’m not eating as much.”

5:30 p.m. — The St. Louis Blues announced that Fox Sports Midwest broadcaster John Kelly has tested positive for the coronavirus.

"The St. Louis Blues are confirming that play-by-play announcer John Kelly has tested positive for the COVID-19 virus," the team said in a statement. "John (Kelly) has been in self-quarantine since March 13. We are thrilled to report that John is feeling strong and symptom-free."

Kelly was interviewed by Blues broadcaster Chris Kerber detailing his experience and recovery. After getting tested for the coronavirus, Kelly said he was initially diagnosed with pneumonia and got "very sick." He said he has turned a corner this week and plans to remain in self-quarantine for another week.

March 26

4:39 p.m.  — The Colorado Avalanche announced that an unnamed player has tested positive for COVID-19, becoming the third NHL player to test positive.

"The player has been at home in isolation since the first symptoms appeared, has recovered and is back to normal," the statement said. "The Avalanche have notified anyone who has had close contact with the athlete."

March 25

5:06 p.m. — The NHL announced on Wednesday that the scouting combine, the NHL Awards and the NHL Draft were all being postponed.

The three events were all scheduled to take place in June, with the scouting combine originally set for June 1-6, the NHL Awards set for June 18 and the NHL Draft set for June 26-27. There's been no word yet as to when the events will be rescheduled. 

March 24

5:18 p.m. — According to TSN's Pierre LeBrun, the NHL told all general managers that the self-quarantine period will be extended for 10 more days. March 27 was the original end date for teams to self-quarantine.

March 21

1:27 p.m. — The Ottawa Senators announced that a second unnamed player has tested positive for COVID-19. The team said that the player was a part of the team's most recent California road trip.

Of the 52 people who traveled with the team, 44 have shown no symptoms with eight tested for COVID-19. Ottawa says they are still awaiting test results conducted March 18-20.

MORE: Two unnamed Senators players test positive for coronavirus

March 17

11:54 p.m. — The Ottawa Senators announced that an unnamed player has tested positive for COVID-19. It's the NHL's first positive player test.

"The player has had mild symptoms and is in isolation," the team's press release said.

March 16

5:00 p.m. — The AHL announced Monday that it will be suspending the season until at least May.

1:22 p.m. — The NHL announced on Monday that it was issuing a new directive to players. 

Players are free to return home to any country but are required to self-quarantine until at least March 27. After that date, a decision will be made on whether to allow teams to re-open their facilities. The league also mentioned a potential training camp period in the weeks leading up to the resumption of the season.

Inside the 1919 Stanley Cup Final: The year a pandemic ended the NHL season

March 13

6:37 p.m. — John Wawrow of The Associated Press adds that the memo outlines a two-phase plan for players to return to team facilities and on-ice sessions.

6:08 p.m. — Los Angeles Times columnist Helene Elliott reports that in a memo sent by the NHL to players, they are being asked to self-quarantine for six days.

1:25 p.m. — In an interview with Sportsnet 590 The Fan, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman discusses the timeline of conversations he's had regarding possible contingencies. Bettman said he was exploring whether or not there would be a point in which the NHL season would have to be shut down.

"In all of those scenarios, and in every discussion I would have, either internally or with clubs, particularly owners, I always ended with the caveat, 'You understand that if a player tests positive we're done for the time being at least,'" he said.

The commissioner added tha as soon he heard the NBA was suspending its season after a player was tested positive for COVID-19, it was inevitable that an NHL player would test positive.

MORE: Gary Bettman on when NHL will return from coronavirus shutdown

"It was at this point I said, 'Okay, we got to take a pause.' I immediately made arrangements for a conference call with the governors for the next day," Bettman said. "There was no doubt in my mind as to where we were going to be, but there was no reason for me to, at that moment, say we're taking a pause.

"The moment the call was over, we issued the release and said we were going to stop playing for a bit." 

11:47 a.m. — According to The News & Observer's Luke DeCock, Carolina Hurricanes broadcaster John Forslund is among two staffers who are in self-quarantine after he was told he stayed in the same Detroit hotel room as Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert, who tested positive for the coronavirus on March 11. 

Forslund was isolated in the front of the team plane on their flight home to New Jersey and will now quarantine in the basement of his house for the next 10 days to see if he develops any symptoms.

"It's serious," Forslund told the paper. "We've got to listen to what we're supposed to do and act accordingly."

March 12

11:04 p.m. — The San Jose Sharks release a statement saying that a part-time employee working at SAP Center tested positive for the coronavirus. According to the team, the person is under self-quarantine and receiving care from medical professionals. The employee last worked during the Sharks' game against the Toronto Maple Leafs on March 3.

7:52 p.m. — In an interview with CNBC, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman says there have been no reported cases at this point. Bettman decided to suspend the season once the Utah Jazz players tested positive for the coronavirus. He opted to take extra precautions considering NHL teams often share locker rooms with NBA teams.

"When the NBA had a positive test and they had to cancel a game at that moment, I decided to get ahead of it and not wait for one of our players to test positive," Bettman said.

He added that he hopes to resume the season and crown a Stanley Cup champion this year once it's safe.

4:00 p.m. — The AHL announces they will be suspending play.

2:59 p.m. — According to The Athletic, the Tampa Bay Lightning release a statement about using the same locker room as the Utah Jazz when they were in Boston. The team says that the locker room was cleaned and sanitized before their arrival and that no one in hockey operations has experienced any symptoms.

1:36 p.m. — NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announces the 2019-20 season will be paused.

9:54 a.m. — NHL tells teams to not conduct morning skates, practices or team meetings.

March 11

10:12 p.m. — After the NBA announced they were suspending their season, the NHL announces they will provide a further update on March 12.

6:38 p.m. — The San Jose Sharks announce all three March home games will be closed to the general public. This comes after Santa Clara County banned all large gatherings on March 9. Only home and visiting club personnel, approved credential media and broadcast partners, essential club and arena staff and NHL officials will be allowed to attend.

MORE: Amid coronavirus pandemic, Blue Jackets, Sharks to play home games without fans

6:00 p.m. — The Columbus Blue Jackets announce remaining home games will be closed to the general public following Ohio governor Mike DeWine's order prohibiting mass gatherings in the state.