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NHL ‘pauses’ 2019-20 season, including Blackhawks’ final 12 games, due to COVID-19 pandemic

The NHL follows the decision made by the NBA.

San Jose Sharks v Chicago Blackhawks Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The NHL has “paused” its season Thursday one day after the NBA did the same amid concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic.

All NHL teams cancelled their morning skates, practices and team meetings earlier in the day Thursday under the advisement of the League. The NHL, NBA, MLB and MLS restricted media access to locker rooms earlier this week amid fears of spreading the virus.

The NBA suspended its operations after Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert of the Jazz tested positive for coronavirus, which led to his team’s game at Oklahoma City being postponed before tipoff. The news of Gobert’s positive test and the subsequent action by the NBA to suspend its operations until further notice came during the Blackhawks’ 6-2 win against the Sharks at the United Center. Gobert’s teammate, Donovan Mitchell, also tested positive Wednesday.

Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane, who scored two goals in the victory, said the team wasn’t told about the developing situation during the game by staff or fans behind the bench.

“I guess things are getting pretty real around here,” Kane said. “It is what it is. We’ll take the recommendations that we get and hope it passes by soon. As players, you want to keep playing the games and keep the season going and for us, I think we were pretty excited about this three-game stretch we had here, San Jose, Ottawa [on Friday] and [Saturday at] Washington and trying to win these games and get ourselves back into it again.”

The NCAA also announced Wednesday that its annual national championship tournaments, including the Frozen Four men’s and women’s hockey tournaments, would go forward but with only “essential personnel” and “limited family” in attendance. There was a thought the NHL would play games in empty arenas like the NCAA.

“The fans are what make the game,” Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith said. “It’s tough to comment on what’s going to happen, so we’ll just wait to find out.”

With the win, the Blackhawks pulled within six points of the Predators and Canucks for the second wild-card in the Western Conference for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Blackhawks have 12 games remaining on their schedule, including seven home games, as they try to make the playoffs for the first time since the 2016-17.