National Hockey League officials still hope to play pre-season games in China ahead of the 2020-21 campaign but are closely watching the spread of the coronavirus, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said.
In a posting Wednesday on the league's website, Daly said plans for games in China, a follow-on to pre-season NHL games in China in 2017 and 2018 before arena booking issues scuttled 2019 plans, could be impacted by the outbreak that began in China but has spread rapidly to become a worldwide concern.
"We're monitoring," Daly said. "It's hard not to monitor it. It seems to be coming closer to us every time, every day that goes by. Certainly it impacts what our plans will be in China in the future and in the relatively near future.
"We haven't announced any games there. I think there was certainly a hope that we would be able to play preseason games there next (season). I would say that hope probably continues to exist, but as time goes on, it becomes far more problematic."
The NHL has been trying to raise its profile in China ahead of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics but the league has not committed to shutting down its season and allowing its star players to compete for their homelands two years from now.