Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball put off the starts of their regular seasons because of the coronavirus pandemic Thursday, while the NHL and the Southern Professional Hockey League seasons have come to a halt.
Other pro sports suspended action as well.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said Thursday his league will “pause” its season, effective immediately. The move came one day after the NBA suspended its season after a player tested positive for COVID-19.
Bettman said the hope is to resume play later and still award the Stanley Cup.
“Following last night’s news that an NBA player has tested positive for coronavirus — and 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.
The NHL is halting play with 189 games left in the season and uncertainty about how many more — if any — could be played before the playoffs, which typically begin in early April.
The SPHL, which includes the Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs, announced Thursday night the suspension of its season “for the safety of our fans, players, team personnel and arena staff.”
The SPHL said it would monitor developments over the weekend and provide an update on the season “in the near future.”
Major League Baseball delayed the start of its season by at least two weeks and suspended the rest of its spring training schedule. The announcement came while some spring training games in Florida were still in progress Thursday.
Baseball changed course after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said at a morning news conference he had strongly recommended to local authorities and organizers that they limit all mass gatherings. Spring training games were suspended as of 4 p.m. Thursday, and games in progress were allowed to finish.
Major League Baseball’s opening day had been scheduled for March 26. The decision announced by Commissioner Rob Manfred on Thursday left open whether each team would still play 162 games.
The minor league baseball season, which was to start April 9, also will be delayed, along with qualifying in Arizona for this year’s Olympic baseball tournament and for next year’s World Baseball Classic.
Minor League Baseball officials made their decision Thursday afternoon. The decision affects the Salem Red Sox and the Pulaski Yankees.
“While we are disappointed in the potential of playing fewer games in the 2020 season, we are fully behind this decision,” the Salem Red Sox said in a statement. “At this point, we do not know when the 2020 season will start.”
Major League Soccer is shutting down for 30 days, delaying the home opener for the expansion team co-owned by former England captain David Beckham. Inter Miami, co-owned by Beckham and Jorge Mas, had been scheduled to play its home opener Saturday. MLS started its season Feb. 29 .
In addition, the U.S. Soccer Federation canceled exhibitions in March and April for its men’s and women’s national teams as a precaution.
CONCACAF suspended its Champions League soccer competition. As a result, the match between Cruz Azul and Los Angeles FC set for Thursday night was postponed. The competition is currently in the first leg of the quarterfinals.
The Mexican national soccer team also canceled matches in Charlotte, North Carolina, on March 26 against the Czech Republic and in Arlington, Texas, on March 29 against Greece, citing travel restrictions.
The ATP suspended all men’s professional tennis tournaments for six weeks, while the WTA said Thursday it was calling off three events for now (in South Carolina, Mexico and Colombia) and would decide on any further changes to the women’s tour schedule within a week.
As of now, the next men’s or women’s tennis tournament still on the schedule is a WTA event on clay at Stuttgart, Germany, beginning April 20.
The outbreak prompted the cancellation of European Champions League soccer matches for the first time, including the high-profile last-16 game between Manchester City and Real Madrid.
Real Madrid said its players were being placed in isolation after one of the club’s basketball players, who share facilities with the soccer players, tested positive for the virus. That led to the immediate decision by the Spanish league to bring matches to a halt for the next two rounds and, hours later, its match against Man City to be canceled.
Juventus’ players, including Cristiano Ronaldo, were already in self-isolation after defender Daniele Rugani tested positive for the virus on Wednesday.
In announcing the postponement of the second leg between City and Madrid in the round of 16 on Tuesday, UEFA said the Juventus-Lyon match was also off.
NFL teams are curtailing or completely stopping scouting operations. The Washington Redskins are among those that have ordered their scouts and assistant coaches to return home . The NFL Draft is scheduled for April 23-25 in Las Vegas.