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Oilers practice cancelled as NHL suspends season due to COVID-19 outbreak
Published Thursday, March 12, 2020 8:42AM MDT Last Updated Thursday, March 12, 2020 12:50PM MDT
EDMONTON -- The remainder of the Edmonton Oilers 2019-20 season has been suspended along with the rest of the National Hockey League's schedule amid fears of the growing COVID-19 pandemic.
"The National Hockey League is announcing today that it will pause the 2019-20 season beginning with tonight's games," reads an NHL statement.
"We will continue to monitor all the appropriate medical advice, and we will encourage our players and other members of the NHL community to take all reasonable precautions - including by self-quarantine, where appropriate."
The league says its goal is to resume play "as soon as it is appropriate and prudent" and asked its fans for patience.
In a statement posted to Twitter, the National Hockey League Players' Association called the decision to suspend play "an appropriate course of action at this time."
The Edmonton Oilers and captain Connor McDavid also voiced their support on the NHL's decision to pause the season.
"Public health and safety are a priority at a time like this," McDavid said. "We look forward to the day we can get back playing the game we love in front of full arenas."
The Oilers said they would get in touch with ticket holders as more information becomes available to the team.
The 1919 Stanley Cup final between the Montreal Canadiens and Seattle Metropolitans was cancelled after five games due to an outbreak of Spanish flu.
The disease caused the hospitalization of all but three Montreal players and resulted in the death of defenceman Joe Hall.
The entire 2004-05 campaign was lost to a lockout.
Earlier Thursday, the league advised teams to not conduct morning skates, practices or team meetings.
Hours later, the Oilers cancelled practice and all player and coach media availabilities.
The team's 4-2 loss to the Winnipeg Jets Wednesday night was mostly overshadowed by the day's COVID-19 developments, including the NBA's suspension of its basketball season after a player tested positive for the virus.
"It’s unpredictable and it’s unfortunate," Oilers' Tyler Ennis told media after the game.
"The health of the public is obviously more important. It's frustrating but we’re going to leave it up to the doctors and I think we’ll be briefed tomorrow on it."
Coach Dave Tippett said he heard of the NBA's decision during intermission. He called the situation bewildering.
"You understand that this is a world health crisis, but we’ve never gone through anything like this. Nothing that has affected the game like this."
Fans left Rogers Place on Wednesday night without knowing when or if they'd be back to watch another game.
"I think it’s blown completely out of proportion. I disagree with what’s happening in the U.S. San Jose, that blew my mind,” fan Colleen Terlson said while leaving the game.
"If no one was let into the building, there’d be a riot."
Most people diagnosed with COVID-19 experience mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, and the vast majority of those who contract the virus recover. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, the risk to the general population is low.
But for some, including those 65 years of age and over, those with compromised immune systems or pre-existing conditions, the illness can be much more severe. Among the Canadians diagnosed with the illness, so far fewer than 15 per cent have required hospitalization.
The situation has changed drastically in North America in recent days.
Speaking at the NHL general managers meetings last week in Boca Raton, Fla., Bettman said the league was closely monitoring the situation.
"We're aware of what's happening in other places in the world and we understand that things may evolve or change," Bettman said on March 4. "We also understand that we're going to have to react to it in a professional and timely and sensible basis.
"But I don't think as we sit here today, people should get too far ahead of themselves."
As of Wednesday night, 19 people in Alberta have been diagnosed with COVID-19, and all are travel related according to Alberta Health Services.
With files from the Canadian Press