The entire world is caught up in the grasp of the COVID-19 virus – and the hockey world is no different. Tuesday saw the cancellation of the remainder of the first and second German hockey leagues season due to the coronavirus outbreak. The top two men’s leagues in Switzerland postponed their playoffs. In addition, the top men’s leagues in Norway, Austria, Poland and Slovakia cancelled the remainder of their seasons as well.
The NHL is affected too, with Ohio Governor Mike DeWine set to announce an order prohibiting mass gatherings in the state. As a result, the Columbus Blue Jackets home game on Thursday against Pittsburgh is not open to the public.
The only people in Nationwide Arena for the game will be Blue Jackets and Penguins team personnel, media and broadcast crews, essential team and arena staff, and NHL officials.
T-Birds Statement Regarding March Home Games and COVID-19
— Seattle Thunderbirds (@SeattleTbirds) March 11, 2020
Junior hockey isn’t immune to the coronavirus concerns either. In Washington State, where 31 people have died due to the virus, Governor Jay Inslee announced a ban on gatherings and events of more than 250 people in three counties around the city of Seattle. The ban includes King, Snohomish and Pierce Counties – which includes the communities where the WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds and Everett Silvertips play.
In BC, the junior B Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League has postponed the beginning of a playoff series between the Campbell River Storm and Oceanside Generals.
VIJHL North Division playoff series postponed over COVID-19 concerns https://t.co/6HECcm9YSA
— Campbell River Mirror (@CRMirror) March 11, 2020
The decision comes after some Storm players self-isolated with flu-like symptoms. Game one of the series between the Storm and Generals is set for Saturday night in Campbell River, but no schedule is confirmed after that as game two of the series was supposed to be played on Friday.
As for the BCHL, it is status quo – as of now – for the second round of the playoffs to start on Friday. All four series kick off that night, with Salmon Arm in Trail, Vernon at Penticton, Surrey visiting Coquitlam and Nanaimo home to Cowichan Valley.
That said, the league is definitely keeping tabs on the COVID-19 pandemic. “The BCHL is working in conjunction with Hockey Canada and BC Hockey on this matter as we fall under their umbrella,” said Jesse Adamson, who is Coordinator, Content Services for the league. “Each of our teams received an information document from Hockey Canada regarding the virus and are making sure all proper protocols are in place.”
OFFICIAL STATEMENT (March 10, 2020) | BC Hockey's organizational update re: COVID-19:
— BC Hockey (@BCHockey_Source) March 10, 2020
The BC Centre for Disease Control states that mass gatherings can contribute to the transmission of viruses like the one causing COVID-19. Although the ban on events in the Seattle-area is limited to those having more than 250 attendees, no such ban is in place in BC or Canada.
As a means of comparison, there wasn’t one first round playoff game in the BCHL with an announced attendance of less than 564. The average attendance through 38 games was just over 1,346. If a ban comes into place with a number like 250 attached to it, there’s a safe assumption the amount of fans attending BCHL games would exceed the amount.
If the pandemic gets worse before it gets better, the BCHL, Hockey Canada, and BC Hockey’s collective hands could be forced and the Fred Page Cup, Doyle Cup, and Centennial Cup could all be impacted.