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NBA, MLB, NHL, MLS closing locker rooms amid virus scare

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MIAMI — The NBA, NHL, Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer are closing access to locker rooms and clubhouses to all non-essential personnel in response to the coronavirus crisis, the leagues announced in a joint statement Monday night.

The leagues said they made the decision “after consultation with infectious disease and public health experts.” The NBA, in a call with teams earlier Monday, stressed that the move is not to ban reporters but to ensure the safety of players and staff in those areas.

The statement, in part, read: “Given the issues that can be associated with close contact in pre- and post-game settings, all team locker rooms and clubhouses will be open only to players and essential employees of teams and team facilities until further notice. Media access will be maintained in designated locations outside of the locker room and clubhouse setting.”

The changes, which the leagues say are temporary, will begin Tuesday – though some NHL teams began putting them into use this past weekend. The NBA said interviews with players would continue in different settings, stressing a gap of 6-to-8 feet between reporters and interview subjects.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover. In mainland China, where the virus first exploded, more than 80,000 people have been diagnosed and more than 58,000 have so far recovered.

Meanwhile, there is already a clear sense of the new normal in the U.S.

The Miami Heat held their annual gala at a theater in Miami Beach on Monday night, albeit a bit differently than usual. The team’s three NBA championship trophies were near the entrance — with someone standing by with a bottle of hand sanitizer. And guests, when they arrived, were offered champagne by some attendants, more hand sanitizer by others.

“Until the league says something else, we are business as usual with a tremendous amount of caution and prevention to make sure everybody’s safe,” Heat President Pat Riley said Monday night. “But also, educating them that they’ve got to do the same thing.”

The NBA has calls with team medical staffs scheduled for later Monday night and a call between league officials and team owners scheduled for Wednesday to discuss next steps. The NBA told teams last week to prepare for the possibility of playing games in empty arenas, something the game’s biggest star – Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James – insists he does not want to see.

“I doubt that that’s going to happen,” Riley said. “But you have to be prepared.”

More than 113,000 people worldwide have tested positive for the disease and over 3,900 people with the virus have died, most of them in China. More than 62,000 people have already recovered. The virus has infected 600 people in the United States – including the director of the agency that runs the airports in New York and New Jersey – and at least 26 have died, most in Washington state.

The Pro Basketball Writers Association quickly responded to the leagues’ announcement by saying its membership “believes the safety of fans, players, team employees, arena workers and the media who cover the league must be protected. Our thoughts are with all people who already have been adversely impacted by the virus.

“Therefore, we understand the NBA’s decision to temporarily close locker rooms to everyone but players and essential team personnel with the NBA’s promise that once the coronavirus crisis abates, the league will restore full access to the journalists who cover the league.”

PHT Morning Skate: Why Gallant was fired; Will Yzerman bring him to Red Wings?

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• Golden Knights GM Kelly McCrimmon explains why the team fired Gerard Gallant. The vague “underperforming” explanation cements something, to me: this is a defining decision by McCrimmon. It’s striking how many players said that they loved playing for Gallant, by the way. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)

• Gallant developed a friendship with Detroit Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman over the years. (Witness that in that glorious main image from Getty Images/Sports Illustrated’s George Tiedemann from 1988.) Things already seemed shaky for Jeff Blashill beyond 2019-20. What happens now that Gallant is available? (Detroit Free-Press)

• Frank Seravalli breaks down a brutal, stunning season for NHL coaches. (TSN)

• Ilya Kovalchuk discusses why things didn’t work with the Kings, and the fit in Montreal. Kovalchuk explains to Eric Engels that he’s “useless” playing 7-10 minutes per night. (Sportsnet)

• Playing in (and winning) a World Series must have been nerve-wracking for Ryan Zimmerman of the Nationals. Then again, his thought on suiting up during a Capitals practice was “I hope I don’t die.” Good stuff. (Russian Machine Never Breaks)

David Perron provides some fascinating insight on how he looks at certain hockey analytics. He also explains some of the stats the Blues emphasize. (The Point)

• More on the Blues: how the team shakes off injuries. (St. Louis Game Time)

• The Lightning are red-hot right now, and critics are wrong: their defense is strong. (Raw Charge)

• Key tactical adjustments make for an improved New York Rangers. (Blue Seat)

• The Blue Jackets aren’t just surviving in net post-Sergei Bobrovsky, they’re thriving. It sets up something unexpected: a potential goalie battle between two netminders who are playing well. (The Hockey News)

• Gus Katsaros does a deep analytics dive on the Devils. (Rotoworld)

• Need a sign that things are odd in 2020? How about this: the Capitals power play is struggling. (Nova Caps)

• Scotty Wazz shares news on TV coverage for “3 Ice,” a 3-on-3 summer league. If it can be anywhere near as cool as a similar basketball league, sign me up. Bonus points if it includes barely-retired players akin to Joe Johnson tearing it up. It’s starting up in June 2021.(Scotty Wazz)

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Jason Varitek talks Bruins, 2004 World Series

Former Boston Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek had a chance to chat with the NHL Live crew before Game 5 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final (airing on NBC; stream here).

Varitek looked back at memories of his two World Series wins, particularly his first one in 2004, when the Red Sox rallied to break an 86-year “curse.” Varitek also won a WS in 2007 during his 15-year MLB career, all with the Red Sox.

Jeremy Roenick asked Varitek what it felt like to spend his entire career with the Red Sox, and the domino effect of Boston sports teams winning championship after championship. You can watch it all in the video above.

MORE BLUES-BRUINS:
• Bruins get Chara for Game 5
• Three keys to Game 5

• Blues fans’ baby was in Stanley Cup 20 minutes after birth
• Laila Anderson bobblehead created to benefit St. Louis Hospital
• Bruins confident they can overcome injuries
• Blues defense benefiting from HOFer Larry Robinson’s experience

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Report: NHL, Nationals in discussion on Winter Classic venue

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News of the Washington Capitals hosting the 2015 Winter Classic broke almost a year ago in September 2013, but as of this writing, there’s still no decision on a venue.

The Capitals and Blackhawks are scheduled to play outdoors in Washington on New Years Day.

According to a story in the Washington Post, there are still on-going discussions regarding a venue for the game.

NHL officials visited Nationals Park home to the Washington Nationals, RFK Stadium where the MLS’ D.C. United play home games and FedEx Field home of the Washington Redskins.

The report says FedEx Field has already been ruled out due to a Dec. 28 football game between the Dallas Cowboys and Redskins. According to the Post, there wouldn’t be enough time following the football game for an outdoor rink to be assembled for a 1 p.m. puck drop on Jan. 1.

Events DC CEO Greg O’Dell confirmed that the NHL is currently in discussions with the Nationals to host the Winter Classic at the ball park.

“I have not been told definitively by anybody that they have ceased discussions,” he said.

The January game will be the second one outdoors for the Capitals while the Blackhawks played in the 2009 Winter Classic and played against the Pittsburgh Penguins in a Stadium Series game last season.

Related: Blackhawks talk up 2015 Winter Classic

 

Chris Carpenter is also good at hockey

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You know those guys that are naturally good at sports? They’re just like me and you…except they’re tall, in shape, super coordinated and rarely trip while walking.

St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Chris Carpenter is one of those guys. At 6-foot-6, 230 pounds, he’s blessed with the type of physique and natural athletic ability to make it far in baseball, which he has.

And he might’ve made it far in hockey as well.

Carpenter skated with the St. Louis Blues this afternoon, just six days after being the winning pitcher in Game 7 of the 2011 World Series.

According to NHL.com, Carpenter has a pretty rich hockey history:

When he was 16, Carpenter was an all-state defenseman for Trinity High School in Manchester, N.H. He was an all-stater his last three seasons in high school, and scouts from the Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins were checking to see if he had an interest in pursuing hockey on a full-time basis.

Carpenter chose baseball instead.

“It was always a dream to do that (play hockey), but I think I chose the right route,” said Carpenter, who was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays with the No. 15 pick in 1993. “Hockey made you much tougher, I know that. Growing up playing hockey made me much tougher than baseball would have. It’s a tougher sport, funner sport. I enjoy it a lot.”

The Blues certainly enjoyed having Carpenter at practice. Injured forward David Perron was tweeting up a storm, informing followers that Carpenter was “snapping pucks around” and that “his baseball skills came out when he batted one out of the air in the net.”

Here’s video of Carpenter during today’s skate:

So yeah, Chris Carpenter is pretty good at baseball and hockey. We now return you to your regularly-scheduled not being good at any sports.