The latest on how the coronavirus outbreak is affecting sports around the globe:
- IOC president holds teleconference after postponement
- NHL postpones scouting combine, draft and awards ceremony
- Pistons’ Christian Wood fully recovered from virus, agent says
- KHL scraps plans to resume playoffs
- Wolfpack lay off Canadian staff
- NFL orders workplace shutdown until at least April 8
- Australia cancels track and field championships
- Golfer Tommy Fleetwood wants Ryder Cup postponed one year
IOC on a mission to deliver Games
The rescheduled Tokyo 2020 Olympics will require sacrifices and compromises by all involved, IOC chief Thomas Bach said on Wednesday, before predicting the completion of “a beautiful jigsaw puzzle and wonderful Olympic Games.”
“Our mission is to organize Games and make dreams of athletes come true,” Bach said, adding that although the rescheduled Olympics must be held before the end of Summer 2021, the as-yet-undecided dates would not necessarily be restricted to summer months.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Japanese government finally succumbed to intense pressure from athletes and sporting bodies as the coronavirus spread around the world when they agreed on Tuesday to put back the Games until 2021.
NHL postpones draft, 2 other events
The National Hockey League has postponed its scouting combine, awards ceremony and draft that were scheduled for June. It did not provide new dates for the events.
With the NHL season on pause since March 12, the postponement of these events did not come as a surprise. The league is still working on scenarios of what hockey would look like if it is able to resume this season.
The NHL draft was scheduled for June 26 and 27 at the Bell Centre in Montreal.
Pistons’ Christian Wood fully recovered from virus
Detroit Pistons forward Christian Wood is healthy after a bout with the coronavirus, his agent said Wednesday.
Adam Pensack told the Detroit Free Press that Wood is “feeling great and fully recovered.”
Wood’s positive test for COVID-19 was reported on March 14.
Detroit’s final game before the season was suspended was on March 11 against the Philadelphia 76ers. Four nights earlier, the Pistons played the Utah Jazz and Wood had 30 points and 11 rebounds while going up against Utah’s Rudy Gobert, who was the first NBA player to test positive for the coronavirus.
Wood has been in self-isolation and watched closely by the team’s medical staff since the positive test.
KHL done for the season
The Kontinental Hockey League has given up on trying to reschedule its playoffs and cancelled the remainder of the season.
The Russia-based KHL is widely considered to be the strongest league outside the NHL. It was due to play its conference semifinals when play was suspended because of the coronavirus outbreak.
Teams from Finland and Kazakhstan withdrew because of travel and safety concerns. That left the league with six teams in an eight-team bracket. The KHL tried to draw up a new playoff system and considered resuming in June and July but has now decided to focus on preparing for a 2020-21 season.
Jays GM floats idea of 7-inning games to complete season
Seven-inning doubleheaders could be a way for big league teams to squeeze more games into a condensed season without exhausting pitching staffs, Toronto Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins suggests.
Opening day has been postponed until at least mid-May because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Blue Jays were set to begin the 2020 season at home against the Boston Red Sox on Thursday afternoon.
College and minor league teams typically play seven innings in each game of a doubleheader.
Twinbills are rarely scheduled in the majors. But Colorado Rockies manager Bud Black said last week that frequent doubleheaders might be necessary to help fit more games into a shorter window.
By averaging nine games a week, a team could play 162 games in 18 weeks, eight fewer than usual. That means Major League Baseball could start as late as July and play a full schedule by extending the regular season through October.
Still, even Atkins isn’t entirely sold on the idea.
“You’re not playing the game that is written in the rulebooks,” he said. “It’s not the regulation game, it’s a different game. Bullpens and teams are built in a way to play nine innings. I’m sure there are people that would challenge that and I’m not so sure it’s something we should do.”
Wolfpack lay off Canadian staff
The Toronto Wolfpack have laid off their Canadian staff — 12 full-time employees — until the Super League resumes play in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.
The job cuts were confirmed by Toronto chairman and CEO Bob Hunter.
The transatlantic rugby league team likely won’t be alone. According to the BBC, other Super League clubs are looking at unpaid leave for staff and players while play is halted.
The Wolfpack face unique challenges, however. Under their current deal with the sport’s governing body, the Toronto team does not get a share of the league’s TV revenue.
Plus the Canadian winter impacts its schedule. While two of its first six games this season were designated home matches, they were played in England. The team’s official home opener at Lamport Stadium was originally slated for April 18.
The team is currently based in England where it has some 15 staffers.
NFL orders all team facilities closed for 2 weeks
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has instructed the 32 teams to close their facilities to all but a select few employees by 6 p.m. ET Wednesday.
In a memo to the teams, Goodell said the restrictions meant as a safeguard against the new coronavirus will be in force until at least April 8, when the league will re-evaluate, using advice from medical experts and health authorities.
The NFL has received pushback for not postponing the draft scheduled for April 23-25 while the rest of the sports world is largely shut down.
Goodell told the teams only the following employees can be at team facilities for the next two weeks:
- Trainers or doctors who are providing ongoing medical treatment to players.
- Directors of facilities, security personnel and independent contracts who maintain physical security of the facilities.
- Technology personnel necessary to maintain security and operational capabilities of a team’s IT network that enables remote work by team staff.
Wimbledon in June in jeopardy?
This year’s Wimbledon Championships could be postponed or cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, the All England Lawn Tennis Club said on Wednesday.
The June 29-July 12 event will not be played behind closed doors and postponing the only Grand Slam grass-court event until later in the year “is not without significant risk and difficulty,” the AELTC said in a statement.
“The unprecedented challenge presented by the Covid-19 crisis continues to affect our way of life in ways that we could not have imagined, and our thoughts are with all those affected in the UK and around the world,” chief executive Richard Lewis said.
“We are working hard to bring certainty to our plans for 2020 and have convened an emergency meeting of the main board for next week, at which a decision will be made.”
Red Sox minor leaguer has coronavirus
A Boston Red Sox minor leaguer tested positive for the coronavirus, and the team shut down its Fenway South complex in Fort Myers, Fla., as a precaution.
The team announced the positive test on Tuesday but didn’t identify the player. He last was seen at the training site on March 15 and returned home, where the test was taken, the team announced.
The team said the affected player is doing well. All players who came in contact with him have been instructed by the team to self-quarantine for two weeks.
The New York Yankees confirmed earlier that two minor leaguers tested positive for the virus.
Australia doing its part to ‘flatten the curve’
Athletics Australia has cancelled its national track and field championships in a bid to help “flatten the curve” of the coronavirus pandemic.
The decision comes a day after the Tokyo Olympics were postponed to 2021, and after the Australian championships had already been postponed.
Athletics Australia chief executive Darren Gocher says he hopes the cancellation gives athletes some certainty and, combined with the Olympics being delayed 12 months, “means that our athletes now have a new goal to work toward.”
Golfers need fair chance to qualify for Ryder Cup
England’s Tommy Fleetwood said Europe’s Ryder Cup title defence should be postponed by a year due to the coronavirus pandemic, as this would give all golfers a fair chance to qualify.
The biennial contest between Europe and the United States is scheduled to be played at Whistling Straits, Wisconsin on the shores of Lake Michigan from Sept. 25-27.
But a string of European Tour and U.S. PGA Tour events have been suspended due to the coronavirus, while the Masters and PGA Championship are looking for new dates on the golfing calendar.
“It would be a shame and feel weird to have to wait for so long after the last Ryder Cup, but you just have to take whatever comes. And it would be fairer in qualification terms for it to be pushed back,” Fleetwood told the Times newspaper.
MLS extends delay on team training
Major League Soccer has extended its moratorium on team training through April 3 and still wants players to stay in their team’s local market.
MLS has targeted May 10 as a potential return date.
Team training facilities may be used only for physical therapy purposes at the direction of the team’s medical staff.