Switzerland’s national hockey leagues will play in empty rinks this weekend due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The Swiss government on Friday put an immediate ban on events involving more than 1,000 people. The National League’s final regular-season qualifying rounds scheduled for this weekend in Ticino will be played “without spectators” according to an official statement by the National League and the second-tier Swiss League.
“This is a precaution against the spread of the coronavirus. All stadium entrances are closed and controlled by the security services,” the statement read. “All other games of the playoff quarterfinals series of the Swiss League — including possible game 7 next Wednesday — as well as the games of the Swiss League Ranking Round from this weekend will take place without spectators.”
The hockey organizations will hold an emergency meeting on Monday to address the postseason. The government’s attendance ban on large events runs through March 15. The playoffs are due to begin on March 7.
The global spread of coronavirus has already impacted hockey. The Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association postponed a week-long tour of Japan due to concerns. NHL players have been hoarding sticks after two major manufacturers, Bauer and CCM, were forced to close their factories due to the outbreak in China.
Bauer CEO Ed Kinnaly said earlier this month that the situation remains fluid and he hopes the company can re-start operations in China soon.
“We have backup stock in the U.S. and Canada to meet these needs, and we are working closely with equipment managers to understand their inventory levels and ensure players have what they need throughout this situation,” Kinnaly said.
The decisions go beyond sports. Outbreak concerns have already led organizers to call off several major industry events around the world, including a mobile technology conference that was due to happen this week in Barcelona, Spain, and Facebook’s developer conference set for May in San Jose, California.
Still others, such as a cybersecurity conference in San Francisco and a popular video game convention in Boston, proceeded this week even after big companies dropped out. The Geneva International Motor Show was due to run March 5-15 and draws tens of thousands of visitors every year, and it was cancelled due to the Swiss governments events ban.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.