Coronavirus: Here's what's happening in the sports world on Thursday
NBA Board of Governors approves 22-team format to restart season
The latest on how the coronavirus outbreak is affecting sports around the globe:
- NBA Board of Governors approves 22-team restart plan
- Hockey Canada lifts ban on sanctioned activities
- NHL finalizes playoff format, Pens player tests positive
- Tokyo Olympics could be downsized, simplified
- MLS lifts moratorium, allows full team training
- Rafael Nadal says he wouldn't play in 2020 U.S. Open right now
- Toronto Wolfpack explore offering fans tracking bracelets to help contact tracing
- U Sports athletes in limbo as pandemic threatens season
- NFL coaches allowed to return to team facilities on Friday
- IOC seeks insurance compensation for delayed Olympics
NBA Board of Governors approves 22-team format
The NBA's board of governors has approved a 22-team format for restarting the league season in late July at the Disney campus near Orlando, Florida.
The format calls for each team playing eight games to determine playoff seeding plus the possible utilization of a play-in tournament for the final spot in the Eastern Conference and Western Conference post-season fields, a person familiar with the situation said Thursday. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the league had not yet revealed the vote result publicly.
It is the most significant step yet in the process of trying to resume a season that was suspended nearly three months ago because of the coronavirus pandemic. The league will continue working through other details — including finalizing specifics of the testing plan once teams arrive next month at the ESPN Wide World Of Sports complex and calculating the financial ramifications of playing a shortened regular season.
Hockey Canada allowing members to decide on return
Hockey Canada has lifted its ban on sanctioned activities and is allowing its 13 member organizations to individually determine when it's safe to return to action.
The move is a first step toward resuming play after Hockey Canada cancelled all activities under its banner on March 12.
Hockey Canada said in a statement the best approach for a resumption plan was for each member to work with regional public health authorities to determine the appropriate steps to return in areas that fall under their jurisdiction.
The sport's national body said it expects the timing for a return to the ice will differ among its members. Certain regions of the country are further along with plans to reopen and roll back restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic.
NHL finalizes playoff format, Pens player tests positive
The NHL announced that every playoff series will be a best-of-seven format after the initial qualifying round and teams will be reseeded throughout if the league is able to return with its 24-team plan later this summer.
The announcement came at nearly the same time the Pittsburgh Penguins revealed one of their players had tested positive for the coronavirus. The team said the unidentified player was not in Pittsburgh, was isolated after experiencing symptoms and has recovered.
So far, nine NHL players have tested positive: five from Ottawa, three from Colorado and one from Pittsburgh. The league is expected to test players daily if games resume. The NHL is still assessing health and safety protocols for what it has said could be 24 teams playing each other in two hub cities.
Postponed Olympics likely to look very different
The Japanese public is preparing for the reality of next year's postponed Olympics, where athletes are likely to face quarantines, spectators will be fewer, and the delay will cost taxpayers billions of dollars.
In the last several weeks, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach has given selected interviews outside Japan and hinted at empty stadiums, quarantines and virus testing.
The stark message about a very different, reduced Olympics is now being floated in Japan by politicians, and in unsourced news stories. The themes include the possibility of reduced seating — if any fans at all — tests for all athletes, fans and staff, and a quarantine-like situation at the Athletes Village.
In the hours before an online news conference on Thursday with Tokyo Olympics spokesman Masa Takaya, Japanese media published several versions of virtually the same story citing unnamed sources: Next year's Olympics will be "downsized," "simplified," or "very different."
MLS allows full team training to resume
After announcing a deal with its players' association to resume the season with a tournament in Florida yesterday, Major League Soccer says teams may resume training.
MLS says each player and staff member must complete two tests for the coronavirus 24 hours apart, 72 hours ahead of the start of training. Every player also must have a test for antibodies and a physical.
Once training starts, players, coaches and some staff must be tested for the virus every other day. An individual who tests positive would be isolated, tested again at least 24 hours later, and all close contacts would be tested. High-risk individuals must be cleared to participate by the team's chief medical officer in consultation with the MLS medical staff.
Testing for antibodies will take place every three months. Testing providers must be authorized by the FDA or Health Canada.
Nadal says he wouldn't play in U.S. Open right now
Rafael Nadal says if he had to decide right now he wouldn't play in the U.S. Open, but he wants to wait and see what happens with the coronavirus pandemic.
The 19-time Grand Slam champion thinks it's important that there be two requirements for tennis to return: assuring everyone's health and making sure players from all countries can travel.
Wolfpack aiming to provide fans with tracking bracelets
The Toronto Wolfpack are looking at providing fans with disposable tracking bracelets/wristbands during games to allow for contact-tracing in case of COVID-19 once the team returns to play.
The transatlantic rugby league team has struck a deal with TraceSafe Technologies to use its wearable tracking products and services "to help in safely re-opening Lamport Stadium for training, any games played behind closed doors, and games with fans during this time of social distancing."
The Wolfpack say they are the first pro sports team in the world "to embrace the use of wearable tracking products and services for staff and fans."
Still Wolfpack CEO Bob Hunter says the team is still in the "very very early stages" of the concept.
U Sports athletes facing uncertainty
Nearly 20,000 student athletes from 56 U Sports schools are waiting to see how the current COVID-19 situation will impact their 2020-21 varsity season.
Some answers are on the horizon as U Sports holds its annual general meeting with its stakeholders, including Canada's four athletic conferences, on Thursday.
NFL coaches allowed to return to team facilities
Coaches will be allowed to return to NFL team facilities beginning Friday as the league continues preparation for training camps and its season.
Commissioner Roger Goodell told the 32 clubs on Thursday that coaching staffs may work from team complexes starting Friday, as long as the club has received permission from state and local governments to reopen Previously, only up to 75 people per day could be at the facilities, with coaches and healthy players barred.
IOC seeks insurance compensation for delayed Olympics
The International Olympic Committee is in talks with insurers over being compensated for the postponed Tokyo Games.
An "open discussion" is under way with insurance brokers, the IOC's Olympic Games operations director Pierre Ducrey said Thursday. The aim is "to try and find the right level of compensation to help us bear the cost of having to wait another year," Ducrey said.
The IOC pays for insurance against the cancellation of an Olympics but has been unclear if its policy covers the one-year postponement forced by the coronavirus pandemic.
Cancellation policies detailed in the IOC's annual accounts cost $14.4 million for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics and $12.8 million for the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games.
The IOC said last month it set aside $650 million to cover its own potential extra costs for the postponement. Costs for organizers in Japan are expected to reach billions of dollars, with most of the bill paid for by taxpayers.
Tottenham borrow $220M to cope without fans, NFL games
Premier League club Tottenham is borrowing $220 million using the Bank of England's emergency pandemic loan scheme to cope with the absence of spectators and the cancellation of two NFL games it was to stage this year.
The north London club revealed the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic as the Premier League advanced plans for the competition to end its 100-day shutdown in two weeks.
During a conference call, clubs agreed to adopt the temporary change in world football laws and raise the number of substitutes allowed in games from three to five, with the bench increasing from seven to nine players.
More U.S. college football players test positive
Two more Oklahoma State football players have tested positive for COVID-19 since returning to campus for voluntary workouts. This week, Canadian linebacker Amen Ogbongbemiga tweeted he tested positive. The other two players weren't identified.
An unspecified number of Alabama football players reportedly have tested positive for COVID-19 upon their return to campus.
Alabama Rivals site BamaInsider reported the development Thursday but did not name the players or how many tested positive. The site said sources indicated as many as five players could have tested positive.
IndyCar-NASCAR doubleheader to be held without fans
Indianapolis Motor Speedway will hold the July 4 IndyCar-NASCAR doubleheader without fans.
IMS officials made the decision after consulting with local and state officials.
All referees in Serie A test negative
All referees in Italy's top soccer league have tested negative for the novel coronavirus. The Serie A officials and some from the second division were tested at the federation's training headquarters on the outskirts of Florence.
They'll remain there until June 10th to have more tests and continue training for the season start on June 20th.
With files from CBC Sports and The Canadian Press