Top leagues in Slovakia, Austria, Poland, Norway cancel seasons due to coronavirus outbreak

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The spread of coronavirus continues to impact major competitions in Europe as several top-flight leagues have cancelled their seasons. Meanwhile, a handful of circuits have postponed post-season play and others are deciding how to proceed.

Spectators watch DEL’s Adler Mannheim and EHC Red Bull Munich|Uwe Anspach/picture alliance via Getty Images

The top two men’s leagues in Switzerland have postponed their post-season and the first and second German Leagues announced Tuesday that the remainder of the season, including the entirety of the playoffs, has been cancelled, but the impact of the coronavirus on European hockey circuits doesn’t end there.

Over the past few days, several notable European leagues have seen their seasons come to an abrupt end amid the outbreak of COVID-19 and related quarantines and bans on mass gatherings and public events. Even prior to the announcement that Germany’s DEL and DEL2 had cancelled the remainder of their campaigns, the Austrian League (EBEL) announced that its 2019-20 campaign has come to a close as a result of public health concerns.

“March 10, 2020 is a sad day for clubs, players, match officials and above all the numerous fans of our Erste Bank Ice Hockey League,” a league statement read. “For months all stakeholders have been working intensively towards the season highlight, which we cannot experience now. However, we are currently experiencing an exceptional situation that affects many areas of our lives. Even if the decision hurts, we see it as our duty to make a contribution so that we can return to normal as quickly as possible.”

As of Wednesday, the Norwegian League (GET-ligaen) and Polish Leagues had also followed suit, cancelling their respective campaigns, as had the top Slovakian League (Tipsport Liga). The Slovakian League’s season was set to end Sunday with the post-season slated to begin in the coming weeks. However, due to a ban on major events, the decision was made to abandon the remainder of the campaign and leave the championship unclaimed this season. In a statement, the Slovak Ice Hockey Federation said financial considerations had to be made with regards to the cancellation, as it would be harmful economically to league clubs to play the post-season in empty arenas.

Despite the outright cancellations by several leagues, there are other top-flight competitions that have either postponed or not yet made clear how they will proceed with their seasons. Notably, Switzerland’s National League and Swiss League have pushed back the beginning of their respective playoffs, though the situation continues to be monitored. In addition, Denmark’s Metal Ligaen has suspended play, but said in a statement they intend to resume the campaign once the ban on events with more than 1,000 spectators is lifted.

Not yet known is how the Swedish (SHL) and Finnish Leagues (Liiga), as well as the KHL, will handle the ongoing situation. According to a report, the SHL plans to make an announcement on how it will proceed at some point Wednesday. Meanwhile, the KHL is battling a ban in Moscow on events with more than 5,000 people, but the league’s other clubs remain unaffected. The primarily Russian league is currently in the midst of its post-season, with five teams – CSKA Moscow, SKA St. Petersburg, Ak Bars Kazan, Barys Astana and Sibir Novosibirsk – having already advanced to the second round.

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