The NHL is taking precautions in an effort to limit the spread of coronavirus, starting with the way media comes into contact with its players. The league had a mumps outbreak in recent seasons and is taking precautions with COVID-19 spreading in certain NHL markets in North America. SportsNet’s Elliotte Friedman and others reported Saturday that the NHL will end locker room access for the media after games, electing to bring any athletes speaking to the press to a more traditional press conference room.
Starting today, @NHL will close dressing rooms to media, on recommendation of Centers for Disease Control (@CDCgov) in effort to stop the spread of coronavirus. NBA, MLB + MLS are expected to follow. Media availabilities will be conducted in formal press conference area.
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) March 7, 2020
The NHL plans to close dressing rooms to media, on recommendation of CDC. Heard this is going into effect today. Media availabilities will be conducted in formal press conference area.
— Emily Kaplan (@emilymkaplan) March 7, 2020
TSN’s Frank Seravelli, who serves as president of the Professional Hockey Writers Association, also reported the news. But according to The Trib’s Kevin Gorman an afternoon Penguins game still had reporters gain locker room access, while other teams were not allowing it.
Reporters were permitted, however, to enter the dressing rooms to interview players following the Washington Capitals’ 5-2 victory over the Penguins at PPG Paints Arena.
The New York Islanders did not allow reporters in their dressing room after their game against Carolinaat Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. The Minnesota Wild and L.A. Kings closed their dressing rooms at Staples Center. On Friday, the San Jose Sharks sent their players to the podium instead of opening their dressing room.
The Friedman report indicates that other leagues, including the NBA, are “expected” to follow this operating procedure, but there’s no official word of that from the Association or any other league just yet. On Friday, reports indicated the NBA is asking teams to prepare for the possibility of playing games without crowds and only essential staff present, but no official decisions to limit interactions with players, fans, or the media have been issued as of Saturday.
Agreements between player associations and writers require player availability at certain times, though each team often handles this availability and interview processes in different ways. Still, ending locker room access is a concern to some journalists who worry ending the practice limits who is available to speak and what kind of stories they can do. Not every reporter wants to speak to the same player, and often in the NHL a number of players are only open to speaking for a limited time before heading to other parts of the locker room inaccessible to the media.
For now, at least, that option of speaking to players is now gone, though for a reason that’s certainly with merit as coronavirus spreads in certain areas of North America.