Five days after the NHL announced it would pause its 2019-20 season, the first player in the league has tested positive for COVID-19.
According to a statement released late Tuesday, a member of the Ottawa Senators has tested positive. The player has mild symptoms and is in isolation.
“The Ottawa Senators are in the process of notifying anyone who has had known close contact with the athlete and are working with our team doctors and public health officials,” the statement says. “As a result of this positive case, all members of the Ottawa Senators are requested to remain isolated, to monitor their health and seek advice from our team medical staff.”
On Thursday, March 12, the NHL paused its season due to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, but none of its players had tested positive for the disease until now. A day before the NHL’s decision, the NBA suspended its season following the news that Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz had tested positive and it was later discovered his teammate, Donovan Mitchell, had as well. One member of the Detroit Pistons and four members of the Brooklyn Nets were also found to have the virus.
In the days leading up to the shutdown, the Senators played all three teams from California, including the San Jose Sharks on March 7. That game was played one day after Santa Clara County, which includes the city of San Jose, recommended large gatherings be cancelled after 20 cases of COVID-19 were found in the region.
The Senators also played the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center, one day after the Nets played the Los Angeles Lakers in the same building. That game between the Senators and Kings was the final NHL game before the league shut down.
While this is the first instance of a player testing positive, a part-time employee at the Sharks’ arena SAP Center and one full-time office staff member for the Vancouver Canucks have also tested positive.
Characterized as a pandemic by the World Health Organization, the COVID-19 outbreak has led to cancellations and postponements across the sporting world and closed international borders as countries try to slow its spread.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has remained hopeful that the NHL will be able to finish its season and award a Stanley Cup in 2020. On Monday, players previously directed to remain in quarantine in their NHL cities were told they could go home, but to remain in quarantine once there.