Editor’s note: This story originally stated the Oilers next home game was supposed to be Saturday against the Columbus Blue Jackets. The next scheduled game was actually supposed to occur Friday against the New York Islanders. Global News regrets the error.
Edmonton Oilers chief operating officer and president of business operations, Tom Anselmi, says the NHL made the right decision to press pause on the season in light of the spread of the novel coronavirus.
“This is the right thing to do until we get the world back on track.”
The team’s COO made the comments at a Friday news conference, one day after the league’s decision. Ken Holland, president of hockey operations and general manager, was also scheduled to speak, but the team said there wasn’t enough information.
Instead, Anselmi provided a business update.
Right now, Anselmi said it’s too soon to know things like economic impact on the club, whether there will be layoffs or when hockey could start up again.
“We’re 24 hours into this so it’s still very much a moving target.”
In a statement issued on Thursday, the Oilers said it will be reaching out to ticket holders, partners and other affected parties with information. There wasn’t an update as to when that will be issued or what that might look like at Friday’s news conference.
“At the end of the day, we’ve all been through work stoppages and 9/11 and SARS and all these type of things and we’ll get through this and we’ll come out the other end and we’ll be stronger for it. All of us.”
Anselmi said ticket holders, whether it be season tickets, a suite or a single game, should expect an announcement over the next few days.
He added they’ve had a few staff members recently come back from a trip to Hawaii and have agreed to self-isolate on the advice of Alberta Health.
Players have been asked to stay home, but Anselmi didn’t have information on whether anyone has been tested for coronavirus at this time.
“We fully support the decision of the NHL to pause the 2019-20 season,” chairman Bob Nicholson said in Thursday’s statement.
“We want to get back to playing games as soon as possible, but this decision is in the best interest of our fans, employees and players.
“Our focus is on their health and safety and doing what we can to combat the spread of the virus. Some things are bigger than the game of hockey.”
Aneslmi echoed Nicholson’s statements and urged all Canadians to lean on each other as this “unprecedented” time continues to unfold.
“When 9/11 happened, sports was a real escape for people,” he said. “The World Series really helped New York heal. Interestingly, we don’t have sports to help us with it this time and we’re going to have to band together and do it together and I think we will.
“We’re going to end up OK out of this. It’s a speed bump but it’s a big speed bump and let’s get past it.”
The league issued a statement Thursday morning announcing the season was suspended.
“The NHL has been attempting to follow the mandates of health experts and local authorities, while preparing for any possible developments without taking premature or unnecessary measures,” the statement from commissioner Gary Bettman said.
“However, following last night’s news that an NBA player has tested positive for coronavirus — and given that our leagues share so many facilities and locker rooms — it is no longer appropriate to try and continue games at this time.”
The Oilers promised more information as the situation unfolds and thanked fans for support and understanding during this “unprecedented period.”
The team’s next game was supposed to be at home on Friday against the New York Islanders.
The move to pause games comes as the Oilers were battling for a division title. When the season paused, the club was sitting in second place in the Pacific Division, three points behind the Vegas Golden Knights.
“Public health and safety are a priority at a time like this,” captain Connor McDavid said.
“As players, we support the NHL and NHLPA’s decision to suspend the season for the safety of the teams and their fans.
“We look forward to the day we can get back playing the game we love in front of full arenas.”
The move to suspend the season comes after the NBA announced it would suspending its season Wednesday night. Less than 24 hours later, the NHL suspended all practices.
Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert tested positive for the virus and the game between the Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder was cancelled while already in progress.View link »