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NHL, union express hope that teams can soon open facilities to players

Players around the National Hockey League now have a better idea what to expect while the season is halted because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The NHL and NHL Players' Association expressed hope in a joint memo Friday that team facilities can soon be reopened for small-group workouts following a six-day period of "self-quarantine" for players, according to TSN. Pending containment of the global pandemic, the league then wants to have a training camp period in which game preparation can resume. Commissioner Gary Bettman repeated his preference to finish the season and award the Stanley Cup.

According to TSN, the joint memo instructed players to remain in their respective team's city while avoiding travel and, although team facilities will be open to anyone rehabbing an injury, alternatives are encouraged, such as receiving advice remotely from medical staff.

Bettman told the Associated Press earlier Friday that he was not aware of any player or league employee testing positive for the coronavirus, but he could not say for certain that no one is experiencing symptoms or awaiting test results.

Bettman's comments came hours after Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told TSN that a player will only be tested if symptoms are exhibited.

In addition to suspending the season Thursday, the NHL barred its clubs from holding practices or team meetings. NHL Players’ Association chief Don Fehr told the Associated Press on Friday he expects NHL teams will be cleared to reopen their facilities to players as early as next week.

However, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said Thursday during an interview on TNT he expects his league's hiatus to last "at least 30 days."

The NBA suspended its season late Wednesday night when Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz reportedly tested positive for the coronavirus. Gobert recently played road games in Toronto, Detroit, Boston and New York, all of which have a mixed-use facility that host NHL games. Gobert's teammate, Donovan Mitchell, later tested positive.

The Raleigh News & Observer reported Friday morning that Carolina Hurricanes broadcaster John Forslund is one of two team employees in self-quarantine after he stayed in Gobert's recently vacated Detroit hotel room.

“It was clear to me that no matter what scenario we came up with that we continued to play with, either with or without fans, it was inconceivable, certainly unlikely, that we were going to get through the rest of the regular season at minimum without somebody testing positive,” Bettman told the Associated Press on Friday.

In a statement released Thursday, the Sabres said they are in "full support" of the NHL pausing its season and urged community members to practice measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Additionally, the team reminded fans that games have not been canceled and all purchased tickets will be valid for rescheduled dates.

The Sabres have 13 games, six in KeyBank Center, remaining on their schedule. The team has a 30-31-8 record and its 68 points are tied for the third-fewest in the Eastern Conference, a potential ninth consecutive season without playoff hockey in Buffalo.

Pegula Sports and Entertainment issued the following statement on whether it will pay part-time employees who will lose income while events are on hold as a number of other teams in the NHL and NBA are doing: "As of now we expect the games to be rescheduled. We are evaluating next steps should the games be canceled."

The American Hockey League, ECHL and junior hockey leagues around North America also indefinitely suspended their seasons with the hope of resuming at a later date. Switzerland, Finland and Germany are among the 10 European-based hockey leagues to cancel the remainder of their seasons. The NHL had already barred scouts from traveling overseas and some teams ordered theirs to not make any trips in North America.

The International Ice Hockey Federation announced Friday that it was canceled the Under-18 World Championships scheduled for mid-April in Michigan.

The cancellation is due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic that has caused major disruptions to sporting events around the world. The tournament was scheduled to take place from April 16-26 in Plymouth and Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA.

It remains unclear if the coronavirus outbreak will impact the NHL Scouting Combine, which is scheduled to take place in Buffalo from June 1-6.

The joint memo Friday also encouraged players to work out at home or exercise outdoors while practicing social distancing. Players also will continue to receive a paycheck over the final three pay periods.

Pegula Sports and Entertainment and Delaware North announced Thursday they would be adhering to the following preventative measures laid out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: enhanced sanitization of high-traffic and concession areas in KeyBank Center and installation of hand-sanitizer stations.


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