League hockey comes to (almost) standstill
by Martin Merk|13 MAR 2020
Hockey has come to a standstill in most of the world due to the coronavirus pandemic.
photo: Matt Zambonin / HHOF-IIHF Images
Many European leagues that should have started or continued the playoff series these days were forced to shut down and in North America the NHL and other leagues have paused the season.

Hockey has come to a standstill almost all over the world after the situation with the coronavirus (COVID-19) has been named a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday.


In Asia where the coronavirus (COVID-19) originated, the Asia League playoff final was already cancelled end of February and the KHL team in China, Kunlun Red Star, had to move its home games to Russia same as the organization’s women’s, junior and farm teams in Russia.

Also in the amateur area hockey has come to a standstill including the cancellation of all IIHF Ice Hockey Challenge Cup of Asia tournaments aimed at national teams from smaller hockey programs.


In Europe the DEL in Germany and the Austria-based cross-border league EBEL were the first leagues to announce the cancellation of the season on Tuesday evening.

On Wednesday and Thursday most other European countries have stopped their top leagues, many of them stopped hockey at all levels.

No national champion will be played out in the Austria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Norway, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia and Switzerland.

The cross-border leagues Alps Hockey League (AUT/ITA/SLO), Erste Liga (HUN/ROU) International Hockey League (SLO/CRO/SRB) and BeNeLiga (BEL/NED) also ended their season. The finalists Ferencvarosi TC and HSC Csikszereda were named Erste Liga champions, Ferencvarosi TC also Hungarian champion.

On Friday also the Elite Ice Hockey League in the United Kingdom announced to shut down the rest of the season.

The situation in the biggest Nordic leagues is open. Following new rules about events with spectators, the Finnish Liiga and the Swedish Hockey League will conclude the regular season, that ends this week according to schedule, in empty arenas. The playoff start in Sweden was postponed to 24 March. Similarly, in Finland it was decided not to play between 16 and 23 March.

In France the last two quarter-final games were played on neutral ice without spectators this week following event bans in the series Amiens-Mulhouse. Mulhouse qualified for the semi-finals in Game 7 but the beginning of the semi-finals has been suspended until 17 March.

In Latvia the top league OHL will conclude the remaining two regular-season games without spectators and decide about the playoffs later. Youth leagues have been cancelled.

In Spain the championships have been interrupted for the remainder of this month with the hope to resume the competitions later.

Hockey is still played in Eastern Europe where the Kontinental Hockey League has been able to continue the Gagarin Cup playoffs almost under normal circumstances. Yesterday’s Moscow derby between Spartak and Dynamo was the first game without audience following a local decree; Dynamo won and advanced. The conference semi-finals are scheduled to begin on Tuesday. Jokerit Helsinki and Barys Nur-Sultan will be forced to play without attendance following new rules in their countries. The KHL will make an announcement about the format before the start of the next round.

In Belarus the playoffs continue with attendance, in Kazakhstan the league will continue without fans. In Ukraine most leagues have been cancelled while the top-level UHL is scheduled to continue, partly without spectators.

North America

On Thursday most leagues in North America have been stopped including the National Hockey League where the San Jose Sharks were the first team affected by a local ban on mass events.

The NHL announced on Wednesday to pause the league after consulting with medical experts and convening a conference call of the Board of Governors.

“The NHL has been attempting to follow the mandates of health experts and local authorities, while preparing for any possible developments without taking premature or unnecessary measures. However, 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,” the NHL wrote in a media release.

“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. Our goal is to resume play as soon as it is appropriate and prudent, so that we will be able to complete the season and award the Stanley Cup. Until then, we thank NHL fans for your patience and hope you stay healthy.”

In both Canada and the United States other pro and semi-pro leagues such as the AHL, ECHL, FPHL, SPHL and LNAH, and junior leagues including the NAHL, OHL, QMJHL, WHL and USHL have suspended the season same as minor hockey events within Hockey Canada and USA Hockey.

The National Women’s Hockey League has postponed the Isobel Cup Final between the Boston Pride and Minnesota Whitecaps that was scheduled for Friday. It shall be rescheduled at the appropriate time in Boston.

The men’s and women’s ice hockey college championships have been cancelled both in Canada (USports) and the United States (NCAA).

International Events

The IIHF and its organizing member national associations previously had to cancel several men’s, women’s and under-18 men’s tournaments of the World Championship program in March and early April due to the coronavirus situation including the 2020 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship that was scheduled in Canada.