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Rick Zamperin: COVID-19 could wreak havoc on NBA, NHL and other leagues

Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam heads to the locker room as time runs out in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Denver Nuggets Sunday, March 1, 2020. The Nuggets won 133-118.
Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam heads to the locker room as time runs out in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Denver Nuggets Sunday, March 1, 2020. The Nuggets won 133-118. AP Photo/David Zalubowski

As countries around the world continue to try and quell the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, it may only be a matter of time before it creates a massive issue for North America’s main professional sports leagues.

With more than 98,000 confirmed cases of the virus known as COVID-19 and over 3,300 deaths around the world — the vast major of them in China — the list of sports affected by the outbreak is only expected to grow.

Soccer matches in China, South Korea and Japan have been postponed while soccer games in Italy are being played behind closed doors until April 3.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: 3 Hamilton-area school boards cancel trips to Europe, take preventive measures

COVID-19 has also forced cancellations on the LPGA Tour and European Tour, World Cup skiing events Japanese baseball games as well as the first Winter X-Games event in China.

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There are also fears the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo may be impacted, although organizers have said the games will proceed as planned.

We are three weeks away from the start of the Major League Baseball season, and about a month away from the beginning of the NHL and NBA playoffs.

Click to play video 'Still unknown whether COVID-19 is seasonal virus: WHO' Still unknown whether COVID-19 is seasonal virus: WHO
Still unknown whether COVID-19 is seasonal virus: WHO

If the outbreak doesn’t show any signs of slowing down by then, those leagues and the players’ unions will have to big decision to make — announce postponements or play without any fans.

Can you imagine having to watch a Toronto Maple Leafs or Toronto Raptors playoff game with no fans in the arena?

Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.