NHL to close locker rooms to media over coronavirus


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Kris Letang. -- MATT SUNDAY / DKPS

The NHL is taking extra precautions as the coronavirus epidemic spreads in North America.

Elliotte Friedman reported on Saturday that the NHL plans to close locker room access to media, on recommendation of Centers for Disease Control. Media availabilities will instead be conducted in formal press conference area in the arena.

Friedman also reported that the NBA, MLB, and MLS are expected to follow similar protocol. The MLB said in a statement on Saturday that they were still discussing procedures.

“We are undertaking many precautions currently,” the statement said. “For example, we are asking anyone — including media — who has visited a high-risk area, as defined by the CDC, within the last 14 days not to visit our facilities.

“We are also discussing additional measures internally and with other leagues. At this time, we have not made changes to our media access procedures, and we will advise if we determine to take such steps.”

Some NHL teams still allowed media into the locker room after afternoon games or practices on Saturday. The Penguins conducted postgame availability in the locker room as usual.

Coronavirus concerns are already affecting other sports leagues and tournaments across the world.

This week the NBA directed its teams to "begin developing processes and identifying actions required if they had to play games without fans in attendance." The Italian government announced that all sporting events for the month of March will be held without fans in attendance. The Swiss hockey league has postponed its playoffs.

Sidney Crosby was asked on Saturday about potentially playing in an arena without fans due to coronavirus.

"We discussed the situation and have been brought up to speed on what is going on," Crosby said. "I haven't given any thought to that, I couldn't give you an opinion either way."

The IIHF has canceled several World Championship tournaments: The U18 Division II A, Division II B, Division III A, and Division III B tournaments, and all three levels of the senior women's tournament. The Division IV men's tournament (the eighth and lowest level of the men's tournament) was canceled by local government authorities in Bishkek, Kyrgysztan.

Some NHL teams are already feeling the effects of coronavirus as it affects stick production by manufacturers CCM and Bauer in China. No Penguins have currently run out of sticks, but some are concerned that they will not have enough of their custom sticks to last until the playoffs. Some of the players who use the affected brands have given one of their custom sticks to Warrior (which manufacturers sticks in Mexico) and asked them to try to make a stick as close as they can to it.

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