Rick Zamperin: NBA suspends season over coronavirus, NHL should follow suit

We are entering one of the most exciting times of the year on the sports calendar, and perhaps, the weirdest of all-time.

The newly announced pandemic over the novel coronavirus has triggered a cavalcade of cancellations, postponements and other measures that have instantly, and dramatically, altered the sports landscape.

March Madness will surely not be as maddening after the NCAA announced the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments will be played in empty arenas. Half the fun is seeing the fans and the school band members go nuts when their teams win a big game, and flail in despair when their schools collapse under the pressure of the Final Four.

Baseball’s Seattle Mariners have postponed their first two series at home, and European soccer games, marathons around the world, ski races, tennis tournaments, and numerous other sporting events have already been scrapped.

But the biggest shoe to drop so far came Wednesday night when the NBA announced that it was suspending its season until further notice.

The decision came after the NBA game between the Utah Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder was postponed minutes before tipoff after Utah’s Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19.

The pre-emptive strike by the National Basketball Association is the right move given that health officials predict the number of coronavirus cases in the United States is set for a sudden spike.

NHL owners are facing the grim reality that all their buildings could be empty by the time the Stanley Cup playoffs — the most lucrative time of the hockey season — are slated to begin.

Commissioner Gary Bettman has to follow the NBA’s lead.

Instead of playing games without any fans in arenas, the NHL should postpone the rest of its season until we all have a better handle on this growing pandemic.

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