The Toronto Maple Leafs have grounded their scouts from flying to games amid growing concerns about the spread of coronavirus, Sportsnet has learned.
The team initially stopped air travel for its European-based scouts when the outbreak hit there a couple weeks ago and has since expanded that directive to amateur and professional scouts here in North America.
Some members of Toronto’s 25-person scouting staff have continued to travel to games by car.
It’s believed a handful of other NHL teams have enacted similar measures with their scouts, although no specific mandate has been handed down from the league office. Teams have been told to “use their best judgment and to consider implementing policies that restrict non-essential travel,” according to deputy commissioner Bill Daly.
Health professionals and government officials in a number of jurisdictions have issued recommendations against travelling and holding large gatherings of people to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The Leafs announced a crowd of 19,124 for Tuesday’s game against Tampa, although there were more empty seats than usual at Scotiabank Arena. Hand sanitizing stations were installed throughout the arena and public service announcements were made during the intermissions.
The organization continues to monitor the situation.
“The [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and the [World Health Organization] are working closely together. Our own physicians are closely in contact with them to see how this evolves day to day,” Leafs president Brendan Shanahan told reporters last week.
The playoffs in five European-based hockey leagues have already been cancelled because of coronavirus. And the effects are starting to be felt more acutely here by the NHL and other professional sporting leagues.
The NHL’s Club Business Meetings — which were scheduled for March 26-27 in Washington, D.C., and supposed to include a gathering of team assistant general managers — were officially postponed on Tuesday night.
The league hopes to reschedule them if it can, according to Daly, but at this point no dates have been chosen.