As it monitors the spread of the coronavirus, the NHL plans to close locker room access to the media, a source told ESPN.
The new policy came on a recommendation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sources told ESPN that the NHL could implement the new mandate as soon as Saturday. All media availability will be conducted in formal news conference areas.
The NHL has already banned international travel for league office employees.
At the general managers meetings in Boca Raton, Florida, last week, the league provided updates on how it plans to handle the growing threat. Deputy commissioner Bill Daly told ESPN on Monday that the league was “starting to explore contingency plans” should the coronavirus become a more significant health threat in North America ahead of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Daly did not rule out options such as postponing or canceling games, or even playing games in empty arenas.
“I think it’s very unlikely — knock on wood, I’m hopeful — that we would progress to a stage where we have to consider something that dramatic,” Daly said. “But certainly everything is possible, and we have to look at all possible contingencies. If it gets to that point, we will be ready.”
The NHL has said it will follow the lead of the CDC and Public Health Canada.
The NHL has said it will likely not send teams on a preseason trip to China in the fall, in part due to the coronavirus and difficulties in scheduling. The NHL has scheduled a game in Prague, Czech Republic, to open next season, as well as preseason games in Germany and Switzerland. The league will also send teams to Helsinki, Finland, for two games in November. Daly said that as of now, he doesn’t think those games will be affected.
“This is an evolving situation, so you get up every day and see what the latest news is,” Daly said. “Certainly we hope that it won’t even be a concern.”