Rogers Centre, home of the Toronto Blue Jays
Rogers Centre, home of the Toronto Blue JaysiStock

Major League Baseball (MLB) and the National Hockey League (NHL) both announced on Thursday the cancellation of games due to the national emergency created by the coronavirus pandemic.

MLB had been in the middle of Spring Training in Arizona and Florida, with Opening Day scheduled for Thursday, March 26. It announced on Thursday that the remainder of its Spring Training games would be cancelled and that the start of the 2020 regular season will be delayed by at least two weeks.

MLB said the action “is being taken in the interests of the safety and well-being of our players, Clubs and our millions of loyal fans.”

MLB and its Clubs have been preparing a variety of contingency plans regarding the 2020 regular-season schedule. The league plans to announce the effects on the schedule at an appropriate time, though MLB also said it “will remain flexible as events warrant, with the hope of resuming normal operations as soon as possible.”

“Nothing is more important to us than the health and safety of our players, employees and fans,” the league said in a statement. “MLB will continue to undertake the precautions and best practices recommended by public health experts. We send our best wishes to all individuals and communities that have been impacted by coronavirus.”

The announcement followed a statement by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman saying that the 2019-20 NHL season would be paused as of Thursday.

"The NHL has been attempting to follow the mandates of health experts and local authorities, while preparing for any possible developments without taking premature or unnecessary measures. However, 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,” he said.

"We will continue to monitor all the appropriate medical advice, and we will encourage our players and other members of the NHL community to take all reasonable precautions -- including by self-quarantine, where appropriate. 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. Until then, we thank NHL fans for your patience and hope you stay healthy."

The two leagues follow in the footsteps of the National Basketball Association (NBA), which announced on Wednesday it was suspending the season until further notice after Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus. On Thursday, his teammate Donovan Mitchell confirmed he had contracted the virus as well.