All Bets Are Off: NHL, MLS Join Growing List of Sports Leagues Suspending Play Due to Coronavirus

Posted on: March 12, 2020, 05:20h. 

Last updated on: March 12, 2020, 06:33h.

Both the NHL and MLS announced that they would be suspending play on Thursday because of the coronavirus pandemic. The move adds to the growing list of professional sports leagues that have at least temporarily halted their seasons, and leaves precious few options available to bettors at sportsbooks.

NHL MLS coronavirus
The NHL and MLS both suspended their respective seasons on Thursday, part of a wave of cancellations due to the coronavirus that has left few competitions for sports bettors to gamble on. (Image: Nick Wass/AP)

The NHL announced that it had decided to suspend its season following Wednesday night’s news that Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19, a result that immediately prompted the NBA to postpone all upcoming games.

Leagues Plan to Finish Seasons if Possible

The NHL has 189 games remaining in its regular season, which was scheduled to run for the next three and a half weeks. In explaining its decision, the league noted that it shares significant overlap with the NBA in terms of stadiums.

“Following last night’s news that an NBA player has tested positive for coronavirus – and given that our leagues share so many facilities and locker rooms, and it now seems likely that some member of the NHL community would test positive at some point – it is no longer appropriate to try to continue to play games at this time,” the NHL said in a statement. “Our goal is to resume play as soon as it is appropriate and prudent, so that we will be able to complete the season and award the Stanley Cup.”

Meanwhile, MLS decided to suspend its season for 30 days. The league had already postponed two matches scheduled for March 21, but joined the wave of sports organizations completely suspending play on Thursday.

“At the appropriate time, the league and clubs will communicate plans for the continuation of the 2020 season and update the status of league events,” MLS said in a statement.

ESPN cited sources who said that MLS will look to reschedule games later in the year, rather than attempt to play behind closed doors, as some European leagues have done.

Coronavirus Takes Most Betting Options Off the Board

The NHL and MLS coronavirus suspensions put the two leagues in line with the NBA, Major League Baseball – which pushed back its Opening Day for at least two weeks – and the NCAA, which cancelled both its basketball and hockey national championships. Italy and Spain have both suspended their domestic soccer leagues for varying periods of time, and England’s Premier League has called for an emergency meeting after Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta tested positive for COVID-19.

Sportsbooks reacted quickly to the rash of cancellations, with FanDuel Sportsbook saying that all bets on canceled games and competitions would be refunded, while futures bets would remain active until leagues made final determinations on how they planned to proceed.

With the sports world coming to a grinding halt, that left few options for bettors who want to get action in during the coronavirus pandemic.

On Thursday evening, FanDuel still offered betting on golf’s Players Championship (Hideki Matsuyama was the +300 favorite after taking a two-shot lead after the first round), along with wagering on the UFC Fight Night event in Brazil on Saturday. NASCAR races will also continue for now, albeit without fans in attendance.  

Beyond that and futures betting, however, there was little to bet on – at least in North America. Lines were still available for Australian Rules Football, cricket, and soccer leagues that have yet to suspend play, including the Bundesliga in Germany and France’s Ligue 1.