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Coronavirus Spurs NHL To Suspend Season Indefinitely, Leaving Blues In Limbo

A St. Louis Blues fan watches a game during the Stanley Cup playoffs in 2019. The NHL has canceled the remaining games in the season due to concerns over the new coronavirus.
File photo | Brian Heffernan | St. Louis Public Radio
A St. Louis Blues fan watches a game during the Stanley Cup playoffs in 2019. The NHL has suspended the remaining games in the season due to concerns over the new coronavirus.

The National Hockey League abruptly suspended its season Thursday to keep the new coronavirus from spreading.

The announcement comes after several other major sports organizations have canceled or delayed games due to concerns over the virus, including the National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer.

In a statement, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said teams would resume play “as soon as it is appropriate and prudent” — but did not specify a date. 

Late Wednesday, the NBA suspended all games after a Utah Jazz player tested positive for the coronavirus. Less than a day later, the NBA team confirmed a second Jazz player had tested positive.

The NBA and NHL share arenas and other spaces, Bettman said, fueling fears that the virus could spread among teams. 

“Given that our leagues share so many facilities and locker rooms and it now seems likely that some member of the NHL community would test positive at some point — it is no longer appropriate to try to continue to play games at this time,” Bettman said. 

There are six St. Louis Blues home games remaining in the 2019-20 season. 

Other major sporting events in St. Louis have been canceled in recent days to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The NCAA called off all upcoming March Madness championship games Thursday, including four games scheduled at the Enterprise Center in St. Louis. 

Patrick Rishe, director of the sports business program at Washington University, said canceling live sporting events has far-reaching effects on the St. Louis economy.

“Most of the impact [is] upon the hotels and restaurants,” Rishe said. “Of course, the employees of these establishments then spend their money throughout the local economy, so it has a ripple effect.”

City Budget Director Paul Payne estimates city government will lose about $400,000 in revenue as a result of the canceled Blues games. 

Payne said the league has canceled games in the past, including during several NHL lockouts, but it is unusual for multiple sports organizations to call off many events simultaneously — and that could hurt local businesses.

“Each individual event is not something that is impactful by itself,” he said. “But if they start adding up, then we have to start raising the caution flag.”

Follow Shahla on Twitter: @shahlafarzan

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org

Corrine Ruff contributed to this report.

Shahla Farzan was a reporter at St. Louis Public Radio. Before becoming a journalist, Shahla spent six years studying native bees, eventually earning her PhD in ecology from the University of California-Davis. Her work for St. Louis Public Radio on drug overdoses in Missouri prisons won a 2020 Regional Edward R. Murrow Award. 
Sarah Fentem is the health reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.
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