HALIFAX – Thursday was a bleak day for Halifax sports fans. First, the National Lacrosse League announced they were suspending the season until further notice due to the growing concerns around the spread of coronavirus, derailing the Halifax Thunderbirds’ 8-4 season.
The NLL said it would monitor the situation and providing updates about the status of the regular season.
“We will continue to evaluate this situation and remain in constant communication with health, team, business and league officials across North America. Security and safety is our top priority and focus in these challenging and unprecedented times, and we will continue to provide updates on resumption and rescheduling of play as they are determined.”
Thunderbirds President and CEO, John Catalano, said it’s disappointing the team’s successful season has been put on hold, but he understands the league’s decision, given the health implications.
“We’re disappointed, but we completely understand that safety comes first right now and we are monitoring things day-by-day here,” he said. “It’s a fluid situation, so everything is changing by the minute.”
Catalano said it’s too early to determine what the financial impact will be on the team, if they must cancel home games. He estimates that the past three games at Scotiabank Arena drew an average of 8,000 fans each.
Catalano doesn’t anticipate having to lay off any of the regular Thunderbirds staff. But when asked if the lacrosse players will still get paid for cancelled games, he couldn’t provide a firm answer.
“I can’t speculate (on the players being paid),” said Catalano. “That’s something that’s being discussed.”
Halifax Sports fans looking to find a replacement for local sports will find little solace in the major North American sports leagues, as both the NBA and NHL have also suspended their seasons out of fear of the coronavirus.
On Thursday afternoon, the Canadian Football League also announced that the planned visit by Commissioner Randy Ambrosie on March 19 was cancelled for the same reason.
“Atlantic Canada is an important part of the CFL family and the health of every member of that family is our primary concern,” Ambrosie is quoted as saying in a press release.
“This is a disappointing but necessary decision, given the concerns about large gatherings. In absolutely no way does this dampen our enthusiasm about our Touchdown Atlantic game in Halifax this summer or the prospects for a CFL team in Atlantic Canada in the future.”