Coronavirus hits NHL overseas travel, Europe scouting

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman says the NHL is working on contingency plans regarding the coronavirus as it stays in touch with US and Canadian health officials and other top North American sports leagues

NHL officials have banned overseas business travel due to the global coronavirus outbreak and are making contingency plans as the Stanley Cup playoffs approach, commissioner Gary Bettman said Wednesday.

As a league general managers meeting concluded in Florida, Bettman said the league is in touch with medical experts and other sports leagues in trying to determine plans to cope with the growing health concern.

"What we can do is take it a day at a time and see what the experts in the field are telling us," Bettman said.

Bettman says employees who make personal trips to countries impacted by the virus must be quarantined out of the office for two weeks upon their return as a precaution to see if symptoms arise.

With one month remaining in the NHL regular season, the league has informed teams of its policy but allows clubs to make their own decisions on business travel, admitting that some European scouting of talent had been disrupted by the travel ban.

"Our clubs at the medical level, the training level and the player level are pretty informed as to what is wise and prudent conduct under the circumstances," Bettman said.

Bettman said the NHL is communicating with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Health Canada as well as the NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball and constantly providing updates to clubs.

But Bettman is not saying what ideas the NHL has in mind should coronavirus became a more serious concern in the United States and Canada.

"We're aware of and focused on all possibilities, but at this point it would be premature to pick any one of the possibilities, especially because it may or may not become necessary in North America, which is why we're staying current," he said. "We're staying in communication with everyone appropriate, and we'll deal with it if and when the time comes."

Six International Ice Hockey Federation world junior tournaments in Europe scheduled for this month have been canceled while the world governing body will wait until March 15 to address the World Championships set for May in Switzerland, where the Swiss government has banned events with more than 1,000 spectators.

"We're aware of what's happening in other places in the world, and we understand that things may evolve or change, and we also understand that we're going to have to react to it in a professional and timely and sensible basis," Bettman said.

"But I don't think, as we sit here today, people should get too far ahead of themselves in terms of how they either react to this or report this. Let's see how it all evolves."