The latest on how the coronavirus outbreak is affecting sports around the globe:
- NHL advises teams to prepare for playoff roster of 28
- National Women’s Soccer League to resume June 27
- Canucks consider holding training camp in U.S.
- Hockey Canada announces virtual camps
- NBA sued for not paying rent at flagship store in New York
- Kontinental Hockey League plans to open 2020-21 season on Sept. 2
- NFLPA’s DeMaurice Smith tempers optimism for 2020 season
- Premier League clubs vote for return to contact training
- Badminton federation extends Olympic qualifying
NHL teams likely to have 28-player rosters
The NHL has advised its teams to prepare for a roster of 28 players and an unlimited number of goaltenders for training camp and the Stanley Cup playoffs if it can return this summer.
Several general managers on Wednesday said they were told that would be the anticipated roster limit. Each team is limited to 50 personnel of any kind in one of the two cities that would host games.
The league says training camp isn’t expected to begin before early July. If the NHL goes ahead with its 24-team playoff format, games could begin in late July or early August.
NWSL announces June 27 start with month-long tourney
Pro soccer returns to the U.S. next month when the National Women’s Soccer League starts a 25-game tournament in a pair of stadiums in Utah that will be kept clear of fans to protect players from the coronavirus.
Players from the nine teams will train and live at two Salt Lake City-area hotels, the league announced Wednesday. All players will be tested for COVID-19 before leaving for Utah, and then will be regularly screened during their month-long stay.
No fans will be allowed into the Zions Bank or Rio Tinto stadiums, two suburban Salt Lake City venues that will host the action.
The tournament begins June 27, with games to be televised and streamed by CBS and its online and broadcast affiliates. It’s a boon for a league that was looking for a new TV partner in the wake of the U.S. women’s victory in the World Cup last year, and now finds itself on the front end of American leagues returning and offering live sports in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Canucks ponder holding camp in U.S.
The Vancouver Canucks are considering moving training camp to the United States because of Canada’s 14-day mandatory quarantine requirement for those arriving in the country.
Canucks general manager Jim Benning says the team is still in the early stages of that possibility. He said he has talked to colleagues with other Canadian teams about the quarantine regulation and how it might put them at a competitive disadvantage.
The NHL on Tuesday unveiled a 24-team playoff format if it can return this summer but said camps aren’t expected to begin before July 1.
Hockey Canada going virtual
Hockey Canada announced on Wednesday that it has cancelled all summer camps for national teams — including the Canadian junior team — and will hold virtual training sessions instead.
The cancellation of scheduled events runs until Sept. 1 and is due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The Canadian junior squad’s annual development camp was originally scheduled to go from July 27 to 31.
The national women’s under-18 summer camp, women’s development camp, the Program of Excellence coaching seminar, the Program of Excellence goaltender development camp and men’s under-17 development camp will also all be delivered virtually.
Hockey Canada says the virtual sessions will include at-home strength and conditioning plans, mental performance plans and check-ins, nutrition, dry-land skills, skating simulations, team-building activities, short-term international competition preparation and meetings with coaching staffs.
NBA sued for not paying rent at flagship store
The NBA has been sued by the owners of the building that houses the NBA Store, who say the league owes more than $1.2 million US after not paying rent in April or May.
The league responded by saying it doesn’t believe the suit has merit, because it was forced to close the New York store due to the coronavirus pandemic.
NBA Media Ventures, LLC is required to pay $625,000 of its $7.5 million annual fee on the first day of each month under teams of its lease with 535-545 FEE LLC, according to the suit filed Tuesday in New York.
The NBA entered into the lease agreement for the property at 545 Fifth Ave. in November 2014.
Counting other fees such as water, the owners of the building are seeking more than $1.25 million.
“Like other retail stores on Fifth Avenue in New York City, the NBA Store was required to close as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Under those circumstances, we don’t believe these claims have any merit,” NBA spokesman Mike Bass said. “We have attempted, and will continue to attempt, to work directly with our landlord to resolve this matter in a manner that is fair to all parties.”
The NBA suspended play on March 11 because of the coronavirus pandemic and faces hundreds of millions of dollars in losses this season, even as it works toward trying to resume play in July.
KHL eyes Sept. 2 for 2020-21 season opener
The Kontinental Hockey League says it plans to return Sept. 2 to open the 2020-21 season.
The last KHL game was played on March 12. The season was then suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic as international travel restrictions became a problem for the league with teams in six countries.
Russia’s KHL is widely considered to be the strongest hockey league outside the NHL. It ended its 2019-20 season part-way through the playoffs without declaring a champion.
The league says Sept. 2 is a preliminary date which could be subject to “necessary corrections” depending on how the coronavirus situation develops. It is also broadly in line with other recent KHL campaigns.
NFLPA executive director has doubts season will be played
NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith doused optimism that the 2020 NFL regular season would take place on time and without interruption.
Although the NFL is marching toward a planned regular season scheduled to begin Sept. 10, Smith told HBO’s “Real Sports” he estimated on a scale of 1 to 10 the chances of this season being played are “six [or] seven.”
“Well, UVA law graded on a curve, so I’m going to go with probably a six, seven,” Smith said.
This week, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said “there definitely will be a football season this year” and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has indicated the likelihood of playing was greater than the 60 per cent Smith estimated.
“Look, a lot depends on what happens with the other sports, and to say that we aren’t looking at what’s going to be happening in basketball and baseball — and we’re not looking at how they work through these things — I’d be lying to you if we’re not,” Smith said. “So how about I go with six, seven on a curve?”
Multiple reports indicate the NFL is working with a series of contingencies that could including playing the full season, even if it began weeks after it was originally scheduled. Or the season could begin weeks later with teams playing out only what games remained.
EPL teams approve contact training
The Premier League is on course to restart next month after clubs approved plans on Wednesday to resume contact training even as some players are concerned about taking to the field again during the coronavirus pandemic.
The vote by the 20 clubs came after gaining clearance from the government for players to work together as a squad as restrictions are eased across England.
For the last week, players have been working in smaller groups and avoiding contact. The next phase in training sessions still acknowledges the social distancing required in wider society.
Players and staff members at clubs are being tested twice a week for COVID-19. Bournemouth goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale and Watford defender Adrian Mariappa are the only players announced as testing positive for the disease in last week’s tests.
The last game was played on March 9 before the competition was suspended.
Germany’s top division restarted on May 16 and Spain has government approval for games after June 8. England is hoping to resume in the second half in June.
Badminton federation extends Olympic qualifying period
Shuttlers will keep ranking points they earned during the original Olympic qualification period before the novel coronavirus pandemic forced the Tokyo Games to be postponed, the Badminton World Federation said Wednesday.
The All England Open, played from March 11-15, was the final event to count towards Olympic qualification before the circuit closed down due to the spread of the virus.
Rankings at the end of April should have been the cut off to decide which badminton players will be at the Tokyo Games.
The governing body said an extended Olympic qualification period will be introduced in 2021 and will include only those tournaments that were postponed, cancelled or suspended due to the pandemic this year.
The BWF announced a new 2020 tournaments calendar last week with the World Tour set to return with the Taipei Open from Sept. 1-6. Tourneys rescheduled for later in 2020 will not count towards qualification and only the 2021 editions of each tournament will offer points towards the Race to Tokyo ranking list.
Spanish government considers return of soccer fans for 2020-21
Spain’s top sports government official says fans may be back in soccer stadiums beginning next season.
Irene Lozano, president of the Spanish Sports Council, believes that conditions could be in place by the fall to allow fans back, with some restrictions.
“Depending on how the epidemic progresses and how the situation progresses, we can start looking into putting a certain number of fans into the stadiums next season,” she said in an interview with radio network COPE late Tuesday.
The Spanish league is expected to resume, without fans, on the second weekend of June, nearly three months after it was suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Lozano said she expects only parts of stadiums to be filled at first, with social distancing guidelines and protective materials such as gloves and masks likely still required.