(Reuters) – The National Hockey League on Friday scrapped plans to play regular-season games in the Czech Republic and Finland this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic which has already put the current campaign in jeopardy.
The NHL Global Series was supposed to have the Boston Bruins and Nashville Predators open their 2020-21 season in October in Prague and the Colorado Avalanche and Columbus Blue Jackets play two regular-season games in Finland later in the year.
“We hope that our fans overseas understand the need to postpone the 2020 games, but we look forward to being back with them in 2021,” the NHL and union representing its players said in a joint statement.
As part of the Global Series, the Bruins and Predators were also scheduled to complete their training camps in Germany and Switzerland.
The 2020 NHL Global Series wold have marked the fourth consecutive year and ninth season overall that the league traveled to Europe to play regular-season games.
The decision to scrap the international games comes as the NHL is trying to find a way to complete its 2019-20 season. If the campaign does not get completed it would be only the third time in NHL history a Stanley Cup champion will not be crowned.
The NHL suspended play for the current season in mid-March with three weeks and 189 games left and the Stanley Cup Playoffs scheduled to end in June.
The 32-team league said last week it hopes to reopen training facilities to players by mid-to-late May as long as local restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic allow for a return to small group activities.
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Ed Osmond)