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NRL 2020, Scott Morrison, COVID-19, crowd bans, AFL 2020, Premier League, cricket news, NBA 2020, tennis



Prime Minister Scott Morrison declared his intentions to attend Cronulla’s round one NRL match against the Rabbitohs on Saturday just moments after outlining the Government’s advice to ban large crowd gatherings from next week.

The PM revealed his Government’s directive that all “non-essential gatherings” of 500+ people should be restricted or cancelled as of Monday during a nationally televised press conference on Friday afternoon.

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It comes as the NRL and AFL held crisis meetings to address the rapid global spread of the coronavirus, which has already shut down the Australian Grand Prix, the NBA and several high-profile sporting leagues worldwide.

“We will be advising against organised, non-essential gatherings of 500 persons or greater from Monday,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.

“These events that we are seeking to advise against and restrict are for non-essential gatherings.”

But as Australian sporting fans were left confused as to whether games would proceed in the immediate-term, the PM said he would be going to the footy to watch his beloved Sharks at ANZ Stadium on Saturday evening.

“I am going on Saturday because it might be the last chance for a while,” he said.

Here’s what we know about how the spread of coronavirus has affected sports across the globe.

Here’s what we know so far.


Lewis Hamilton has been critical of F1 bosses.Source: AAP

Formula 1 has confirmed that the Australian Grand Prix has been cancelled following the positive tests of coronavirus at Albert Park.

It is understood that the majority of teams decided against racing at Albert Park during talks held on Thursday night before a decision came at around 2am Friday morning (AEDT).

Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel and Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen both flew back to Europe on the same flight overnight after that news before official confirmation was made just after 10am on Friday (AEDT).



The NRL is scrambling to consider the financial implications of a league shutdown.Source: News Corp Australia

The NRL and the clubs are preparing for a season shutdown or for games to be played in front of empty stadiums as the rapidly evolving coronavirus takes hold of world sport.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison delivered a press conference Friday afternoon when he announced the Government’s advice to ban organised events with an audience of more than 500 people.

It comes as the NRL was set to hold a phone hook-up with all 16 clubs at 4pm Friday to confirm its plans for round one.

The NRL will hold a phone conference with all 16 clubs at 4pm after the Prime Minister’s hands down his recommendations at a press conference at 3pm.

And in a stunning turn of events Townsville Stadium had to be evacuated not because of coronavirus, but bizarrely due to a kitchen fire.



The AFL still plans to proceed with Round 1… for now.Source: AAP

The AFL wants to proceed with Round 1 next week and play every game of the home and away season – for now.

But that’s been thrown into major doubt with the government told to ban all gatherings of more than 500 people across Australia.

The AFL is desperate to make sure Round 1 is played as planned, albeit in empty stadiums. understands the working group charged with coordinating a response is leaning towards shutting the gates to grounds rather than placing a blanket cancellation on early season matches.

The ultra-cautious approach would be to announce the first four weeks of the season have been postponed or wiped, but the AFL sees this as a last resort.

A 2pm conference call with clubs was delayed as the AFL works overtime to come to a resolution of sorts by the end of the day.

The league will be guided by the government’s advice which advises against mass gatherings of 500 or more people, but if there is no clear direction to postpone games, the AFL will almost certainly push ahead.



Jazz All-Star teammates Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell both have the virus.Source: AP

Donovan Mitchell joined Rudy Gobert to become the second Utah Jazz player to test positive for COVID-19 (coronavirus), and some finger-pointing has already begun.

The Jazz made an announcement early Friday morning (AEDT) that a second player had contracted the virus, and ESPN was quick to report that the player was Mitchell; the team’s other All-Star.

Gobert’s positive test on Thursday prompted the NBA to quickly suspend its season, with panic building among the teams that had recently faced the Jazz; all of those players asked to self-quarantine after news of the Frenchman’s test was released.

According to The Athletic, out of the 58 coronavirus tests that went out among Jazz players and personnel, only Mitchell’s came back positive.



What would the shutdown of the English Premier League mean for Liverpool?Source: AFP

Premier League officials have confirmed all of this weekend’s matches will proceed as scheduled, but serious developments could threaten the league’s ongoing viability.

Three Leicester City players are ‘showing coronavirus symptoms’ while Arsenal and Manchester City players are self-isolating, putting the rest of the PL season in doubt.

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has on Friday morning been confirmed as having tested positive to the virus.

Leicester City manager Brendan Rogers confirmed three of his players are being isolated from the rest of the side after showing coronavirus symptoms.

Manchester City defender Benjamin Mendy has taken precautionary measures and is self-isolating in his Cheshire home after a family member fell ill.

A number of Gunners players have self-isolated after Olympiakos owner Evangelos Marinakis contracted the coronavirus.



Cristiano Ronaldo’s Juventus have already had games called off.Source: AFP

UEFA are in talks to suspend the Champions League, Europa League and Euro 2020 due to coronavirus fears.

The two biggest club football tournaments have been thrown into turmoil as the deadly bug has started to affect a number of teams involved.

Also on the table is this summer’s Euro 2020 tournament, with Wembley due to host the semi-finals and final.

Juventus’ squad have gone into quarantine after Daniele Rugani tested positive for the deadly bug.

Cristiano Ronaldo has told Juve he will not be returning from Madeira during the outbreak.



Australia will play New Zealand in three one-day internationals across the next week in front of empty stadiums.

In an unprecedented move for the sport, understands the threat of coronavirus has forced Cricket Australia to lock the gates at the SCG on Friday and Sunday and then in Hobart on March 20.

Players and other relevant stakeholders were canvassed on the possibility of empty stadiums on Thursday.

Following these conversations, sources were left in no doubt that the governing body would implement the radical ploy, though it took until Friday morning for it to be made official.

Cricket Australia’s medical officials have been in constant dialogue with infectious disease experts in recent days.

It is understood this was primarily a Cricket Australia decision. No family or friends will be allowed in the ground, only broadcasters and accredited journalists.



The Olympics may be pushed back to next year.Source: Getty Images

There are still major concerns over the status of the 2020 Tokyo Games, given Japan has been one of the countries hardest-hit by coronavirus.

A top Olympic official said on Wednesday contingency plans will need to be drawn up next month which could include delaying the Games by up to two years.

“The International Olympic Committee would be in trouble if there’s a cancellation. American TV rights alone provide them with a huge amount,” Haruyuki Takahashi told the Wall Street Journal.

The Olympics would likely be pushed into 2021 or 2022, rather than moved later into 2020, because of that funding from the United States.

NBC is the Olympic broadcaster in the US, and would not want its multi-billion investment in the Games to clash with its similarly large investment in the NFL, which begins its season in September.


The other major professional sports leagues in the US have followed the lead of the NBA and suspended competitions.

The NHL hockey and MLB basketball leagues both confirmed overnight their seasons were suspended.


There isn’t going to be any tennis for a while.Source: AP

Nick Kyrgios put it simply on Thursday: “Bro (crying laughing emoji) there isn’t going to be any tennis”.

The biggest tournament of the year outside of the Slams, Indian Wells, was cancelled earlier this week just days out from the start of qualifying.

The global outbreak has forced the ATP to suspend its men’s professional tennis tour indefinitely.

It means that all ATP Tour and ATP Challenger Tour events anticipated to occur up to and including the week of April 20 have been cancelled.

These include the Miami Open, U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championships and Monte-Carlo Masters.

There are major questions over the French Open, which begins on May 24. France has temporarily banned all gatherings of over 1000 people.

At the very least, it’s likely the clay season will see cancellations. The Monte Carlo Masters are a month away, with the Barcelona Open a week after that.

The Rome Masters (May 10) is also in doubt given the heavy restrictions on movement placed in Italy at the moment.


The PGA Tour has cancelled the Players Championship.

“At this point – and as the situation continues to rapidly change – the right thing to do for our players and our fans is to pause,” the PGA Tour said in a statement.

The LGPA announced that its next three events on the LGPA Tour will be postponed: the Volvik Founders Cup, Kia Classic and ANA Inspiration.

I am fully committed to rescheduling these important events on our 2020 schedule, especially our first major, the ANA Inspiration,” said LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan.

At the moment, the PGA will be going ahead but without any fans present.

The PGA is not currently planning to cancel any events, with The Players Championship to begin on Friday at TPC Sawgrass in Florida.

The WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play is scheduled to be played in Austin in two weeks’ time – the same city that already saw the famous South by Southwest festival cancelled.

But PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said on Tuesday “we fully expect that the tournament will be held in Austin.

“That tournament is two weeks away. We’re all in and making certain that we’re able to operate that event.”

It was reported the PGA Championship (May 14-17) could be moved from Harding Park in San Francisco to TPC Sawgrass, while prices are dropping for tickets to the Masters (April 9-12).

The Washington Post reported a four-round ticket at Augusta was available for $3990 via Stubhub, when the same ticket went for $6490 last year.

Meanwhile the European Tour has cancelled several events in Asia.


World rugby has been heavily affected by the coronavirus, with high profile games either postponed or moved around the globe.

Three men’s Six Nations fixtures in Europe have been postponed, along with numerous Pro14 games, while Super Rugby’s Sunwolves have been forced to move Japan home matches to Australia.

The Sunwolves will ‘host’ the Crusaders in Brisbane on Saturday.

Japan’s Top League is also on hold while the Hong Kong and Singapore legs of the Sevens World Series have been postponed until October.

A Super Rugby spectator at last weekend’s Rebels game has tested positive for coronavirus.

The man attended AAMI Park in Melbourne on Saturday for the Rebels fixture against the Lions.

“We are taking this matter very seriously and we are working with all relevant stakeholders to determine any potential consequences of his attendance,” Rebels chief executive Baden Stephenson said.

The Rebels have also postponed a fan day at Moorabbin Rugby Club on Saturday.

“The continued health and safety of our community must come first,” Stephenson said.

Rugby Australia and SANZAAR say they are working together to safeguard players, officials, support staff and fans.

At this stage round seven of Super Rugby will go ahead as planned, starting with the Chiefs v Hurricanes game in New Zealand on Friday.

“There is a lot of misinformation in the public about the virus and the most important advice for the rugby community is to follow the advice of the health authorities and focus on good hygiene practices as the best preventative measure,” RA’s chief medical officer Warren McDonald said.

“We are being guided by the advice from the authorities and have taken some additional steps with regards to the monitoring of players and staff within our organisations and will continue to communicate the latest developments and make information available to those within our community.”

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Impact on sporting leagues, sports events cancelled, COVID-19 news, 10 positive tests in Serie A, Lionel Messi



Sport at local, national and international level has been hit by more disruptions because of the coronavirus.

Some of the world’s biggest competitions have been forced to temporarily shut down as the planet tries to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Here’s a look at the latest developments, with a full list of sports impacted at the bottom of this article.

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Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s announcement of strict border restrictions on Sunday will throw the A-League under even more pressure to suspend or cancel the remainder of the season.

Wellington Phoenix, who host Melbourne Victory on Sunday afternoon at Sky Stadium, are already expected to shift all home games to Australia following this round.

But PM Morrison’s announcement that all arrivals into Australia (from midnight tonight) would be forced to self-isolate for 14 days would force the cancellation of at least four A-League games – unless both Wellington and Melbourne Victory can make it back to Australia before the new rules begin.

Those matches are Wellington’s clash with Sydney FC on Wednesday and with Newcastle Jets on Sunday the 22nd, as well as Melbourne Victory’s home match with Brisbane Roar next Sunday (22nd) and away to Perth Glory the following Sunday (29th).

The Wellington v Victory match is expected to go ahead as scheduled, with an FFA announcement on the future of the competition anticipated for late Sunday night or early Monday.


The AFL is still planning on opening its season next Thursday, but Melbourne has become the latest club to ask its fans to keep supporting them through the coronavirus pandemic.

With clubs heavily supported by memberships, an open letter from the Demons’ chairman and CEO, Glen Bartlett and Gary Pert, have asked their fans to keep the faith through a tough period.

“As you are aware, an enormous amount of work has gone into our club to set ourselves up to challenge for the ultimate prize in the coming years,” the letter said.

“What will be so very important during these times is your continued loyalty, support and commitment to the club and the players we all love.

“What we would like to ask is for you to maintain your loyalty, to support us like never before and to retain your membership, while encouraging others to do so. The harsh reality is that we really need your support during this time of significant financial challenge.”

The AFL is said to be considering plans including having teams playing multiple games a week and shortening games in order to fit the full season in.


Another domino has fallen on the cricket field, as Cricket Australia respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

The final round of the Sheffield Shield has been called off, with a decision to be made on the final in due course.

It comes after the cancellation of the Australia vs New Zealand series.

The Sheffield Shield has called off its final round. (AAP Image/Richard Wainwright)Source: AAP


Sampdoria midfielder Fabio Depaoli has announced he’s tested positive for COVID-19.

He’s the 10th Serie A player confirmed positive and the sixth at Sampdoria. While Sampdoria said in a statement earlier Saturday that it would not announce any more updates about its players “to avoid news leaks and useless alarmism” since “all the lads are well,” Depaoli revealed his positive test on social media.

Depaoli writes in Italian on Instagram, “Unfortunately I’ve tested positive for COVID-19. But I want to reassure you that I’m OK! This invisible monster is hitting us indiscriminately, but by adopting the correct measures and following medical advice, we can win our biggest match and return stronger than before.”

The five other Sampdoria players who tested positive are: Manolo Gabbiadini, Omar Colley, Albin Ekdal, Antonino La Gumina and Morten Thorsby. The other Serie A players who tested positive are Daniele Rugani at Juventus and Fiorentina teammates Dusan Vlahovic, German Pezzella and Patrick Cutrone.

Lionel Messi has joined a call in Spain by sports figures, who are supporting a public awareness campaign by government authorities and healthcare workers asking the nation’s population to remain indoors to fight the spread of the coronavirus.

“It is the moment to act responsibly and to stay home,” Messi wrote on Instagram on Saturday.

The Barcelona star added: “We are worried by what is happening and we want to help by putting ourselves in the place of those who are having the most difficulties, either because they or their families or friends are directly affected, or because they are working on the frontline in hospitals.”

Spain is tightening controls on movement and closing shops as it struggles to stem a peak in virus infections that has surpassed 5,000 people.

Meanwhile NFL clubs have been instructed to avoid all in-person contact with prospects ahead of next month’s NFL draft, according to a posting on the league’s web site.

In a memo to all 32 teams, the league instructed clubs to stop visits to team facilities by prospects as of Friday.


The situation for the NRL’s Warriors remains unclear. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images


The NRL, A-League and Super Rugby seasons have been put in major doubt after New Zealand announced a travel ban, effective from midnight on Sunday.

Following this round of A-League, Wellington Phoenix will be based in Australia.

NRL CEO Todd Greenberg will address the media later this evening.

Every person entering NZ from after this weekend will be required to enter self-isolation, with only the Pacific exempted from the measure.

The Warriors could therefore be forced to remain in Australia, according to Channel 9’s Danny Weidler.

The Warriors are due to host the Raiders in a double header with Super Rugby side the Blues taking on the Brumbies in Auckland next Saturday.

“I’ve had a number of discussions with the NRL this afternoon to discuss which options are available to us,” said Warriors CEO Cameron George.

“Obviously that’s going to create some significant challenges for opposing teams to come to

New Zealand.

“We’re very conscious of the families, the boys involved, everyone has different circumstances.

“The most important thing for the fans and the game is we try to keep the competition going.”


The Australian Rugby League Commission will hold a 5pm phone hook-up on Saturday to discuss contingency plans on how rugby league can best handle the Coronavirus crisis.

ARLC Chairman Peter V’landys has confirmed the NRL will explore every possible option to keep the new season rolling despite other sports around the world being forced to postpone competitions.

One scenario being strongly pushed is staging a “Magic Month” of NRL games which would involve players all being tested and then quarantined from the Coronavirus.

All NRL games could then be played out of one stadium with Brisbane and Townsville both being discussed as options.

However this plan may have been ruined by the news of required self-isolation for all visitors to New Zealand, effective Sunday at midnight.

The ARLC and the NRL executives’ priority right now is to keep the new season up and running while taking every precaution possible to ensure player welfare.


Football Federation Australia (FFA) today confirmed that the international friendly between the Matildas and world No.8 Canada, scheduled for April 14 in Vancouver, BC, has been cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak.

FFA and Canada Soccer have been in regular discussions regarding the fixture, and in light of developments in both Australia and Canada over the past days, the decision has been made to cancel the game.

It’s another blow for Ante Milicic’s Tokyo Olympics preparations after the match against the reigning, and four-time, world champion USA on April 10 in Sandy, Utah was scrapped earlier this week.



Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison initially insisted that he would still go to Saturday evening’s Sharks vs Rabbitohs game — despite just announcing a ban on non-essential mass gatherings — but changed his tune after severe backlash.

“After further consideration and the potential for the prime minister’s attendance to be misrepresented, the prime minister has chosen not to attend the match this weekend,” a spokesman said late Friday night.

Anthony Albanese, the Opposition Leader who’s an avid Rabbitohs supporter, also decided not to attend the same match.


Hours after the Indian Premier League was postponed, several tours across the globe were also placed on hold due to ongoing concerns about the spread of coronavirus.

England’s tour of Sri Lanka, South Africa’s of India and Australia women’s of South Africa were among those to be postponed on Friday night.

England captain Joe Root and coach Chris Silverwood as the tour match with the SLC Board President’s XI was abandoned. Picture: Gareth CopleySource: Getty Images

England was playing a four-day tour match when, at the request of its cricket board, had its tour of Sri Lanka called off during play.

The first Test in Galle was scheduled to start on March 19, however, it’s understood the intention is for the series to be rescheduled instead



After the prestigious Players Championship was cancelled, the annual Masters tournament has now been postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Augusta National Golf Club has announced the 2020 Masters will be postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

At this stage, no future date has been given.

August National chairman Fred Ridley says he hopes postponing the event puts Augusta National in the best position to host the Masters and its other two events at some later date. Picture: Tim DominickSource: AP

The Masters had been scheduled for April 9-12.

“Considering the latest information and expert analysis, we have decided at this time to postpone the Masters Tournament, the Augusta National Women’s Amateur and the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals,” Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley wrote in a statement.

“Ultimately, the health and wellbeing of everyone associated with these events and the citizens of the Augusta community led us to this decision. We hope this postponement puts us in the best position to safely host the Masters Tournament and our amateur events at some later date.”


The Premier League and the Champions League have been suspended.

The French and German leagues also dropped plans to play this weekend, placing all five of Europe’s biggest national competitions on hold.

Men’s Olympic qualifying also was suspended in soccer’s North and Central American and Caribbean region.

CORONAVIRUS REPERCUSSIONS: European football has been thrown into chaos


Australian sporting codes are shutting out fans after the coronavirus pandemic forced the cancellation of the Formula One Grand Prix and other events.

The NRL will stage games from next weekend in empty stadiums after the federal government announced a ban on non-essential gatherings of more than 500 people, effective Monday.

The AFL’s men’s and women’s competitions will also be held with no fans attending.

Basketball authorities closed the NBL’s grand final series to spectators from Friday night’s game two. Andrew Bogut put on a first-half masterclass to inspire the Sydney Kings to a 97-83 victory over the Perth Wildcats.

Rugby union’s Super Rugby games in Australia will follow suit from next weekend while swimming’s hierarchy called off next month’s national championships.

Australia’s men’s cricket team began a one-day international against New Zealand in an empty Sydney arena on Friday, hours after the Australian Grand Prix became the first sporting event in the country cancelled due to the coronavirus.

Organisers stopped the season opener while spectators were queuing to enter Melbourne’s Albert Park circuit, their call coming after 14 people linked to the Grand Prix were tested – one, a McLaren team member, returning a positive.

Supercars races were also cancelled, while Super Netball’s pre-season tournament later this month was scrapped.

Australian sports had no choice but to follow leagues around the world in holding games without spectators or suspending competition after Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the ban on non-essential mass gatherings.

— with AAP and AFP

FULL LIST: The sports impacted by coronavirus (as of Saturday March 14)

AFL: Will still play games, but no crowds for Round 1

AFLW: Will still play games, but no crowds from Saturday March 14 onwards


– NBL: Will still play grand final games, but no crowds

– NBA: Suspended

– NCAA tournaments (men’s and women’s): Cancelled


– Australia v New Zealand men’s ODI series: Will still play games, but no crowds

– South Africa v Australia women’s ODI series: Cancelled

– England’s tour of Sri Lanka: Postponed

– South Africa’s tour of India: Called off

– IPL: Postponed

– Pakistan Super League: Taken four days off its schedule

– Sheffield Shield: Final round cancelled


– Giro d’Italia: Postponed


– A-League: Matches for this weekend to “proceed as planned”

– English Premier League (and most European leagues): Postponed


– The Masters: Postponed

– PGA Tour: Postponed

– LPGA Tour: Postponed

HORSE RACING: Most meets to continue but no crowds

MLB: Opening Day postponed for two weeks


– Formula 1 (including next two events): Postponed

– MotoGP: Suspended

– Supercars: To be confirmed

– NASCAR: Racing to continue, but no crowds

NHL: Season suspended

NRL: Business as usual for Round 1, but will play on with no crowds from Round 2 onwards

SIX NATIONS: Match this weekend postponed

SUPER RUGBY: Season postponed

SURFING (WSL): Postponed


– Australian Swimming Championships: Suspended


– ATP Tour: Postponed

– WTA Tour: Some events have been postponed

UFC: Going ahead (”fight on” says Dana White) without fans

WWE: Live events moved to ‘Performance Centre’ training base without fans, WrestleMania status unclear

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NHL, Oilers star suffered brain bleed



Edmonton Oilers forward Colby Cave died Saturday morning, days after undergoing emergency surgery for a brain bleed, his family announced.

He was 25.

“It is with great sadness to share the news that our Colby Cave passed away early this morning,” Cave’s family said in a statement.

“I (wife Emily) and both our families are in shock but know our Colby was loved dearly by us, his family and friends, the entire hockey community, and many more. We thank everyone for their prayers during this difficult time.”

On Tuesday, Cave had emergency surgery to remove a colloid cyst that was causing pressure on his brain.

He remained in a medically induced coma following the procedure as doctors fought to save his life at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Hospital.

Cave’s family was not allowed to be in the hospital with him because of coronavirus precautions, but Emily said during the week she and his parents got to see him through a window and talk to him with a walkie talkie.

Cave, who got married last summer, split this season between the Oilers and AHL Bakersfield.

Emily Cave last week posted on Instagram a heartbreaking message where she admitted the family was praying for a miracle recovery.

“Please wake up. Please wake up,” she wrote on Instagram.

Colby Cave of the Edmonton Oilers in the NHL.Source: AFP

“It’s all I can keep asking, ‘he’s going to wake up right?’ We need a miracle.

“We have no idea when we will be allowed to see him again. The nurse has tied his wedding band to his ankle,” she continued.

“I am dreaming of being able to touch you, hear your voice, squeeze your hand (3 times), and kiss you again.”

On Wednesday, Emily told her followers she endured “the worst days of [her] life,” as Colby underwent surgery with doctors “fighting to keep him alive.”

Cave previously played for the Boston Bruins.

“The National Hockey League family mourns the heartbreaking passing of Colby Cave, whose life and hockey career, though too short, were inspiringly emblematic of the best of our game,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement.

“Undrafted but undaunted, Colby was relentless in the pursuit of his hockey dream with both the Edmonton Oilers and Boston Bruins organisations. An earnest and hardworking player, he was admired by his teammates and coaches. More important, he was a warm and generous person who was well-liked by all those fortunate enough to know him. We send our heartfelt condolences to his wife Emily, their families and Colby’s countless friends throughout the hockey world.”

AHL president and CEO David Andrews also paid tribute to Cave.

“Colby Cave was beloved as a teammate and friend, as a husband and son,” Andrews said in a statement.

“The entire American Hockey League extends our deepest condolences to Colby’s wife, Emily, and his entire family, as well as to those whose lives he touched in the Oilers and Bruins organizations and throughout hockey.”

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Draft lottery, New York Rangers, Alexis Lafreniere



There might not be a frozen envelope involved, but conspiracy theories abounded after the Rangers won the NHL Draft lottery Monday night and with it the right to select consensus top pick, heralded Canadian left winger Alexis Lafreniere.

The Rangers and the seven other teams eliminated from the NHL playoff qualifying round this past week were entered into a live televised lottery for the top pick in October’s draft, held pingpong-ball style.

Normally the NHL conducts its lottery process behind closed doors and reveals the results afterward, as was the case during the first phase of the lottery in June, when it was determined that the top pick would be awarded to a team involved in the league’s restart.

With commissioner Gary Bettman looking on, an unidentified and masked NHL employee was to remove each ball from an attache case, show it to Bettman who verified the logo, and then place it into the lottery machine.

But the employee accidentally dropped the ball emblazoned with the Rangers logo into the machine first, leading players and fans on social media to suggest, without substantial evidence, that the ball may have been heavier than the other balls in order to give it a better shot at being selected by the machine.

The employee quickly removed the ball from the machine, without disrupting the other balls, and had Bettman verify it before dropping it back in.

“New York Rangers ball looks a little heavy,” tweeted former NHL goaltender Roberto Luongo.

“I don’t like how that guy dropped the rangers ball in there. Rigged??” said Rangers defenseman Anthony DeAngelo.

The Rangers ball eventually emerged as the winner, giving them the chance to select the 18-year-old Lafreniere.

Others on social media likened the bizarre sequence of events to the 1985 NBA Draft Lottery, when it was theorised that an envelope containing the Knicks logo was frozen so that then-commissioner David Stern would be able to easily pull it out of the lottery box, thus giving the Knicks the right to select Patrick Ewing. Stern effusively denied that rumour until the day he died on Jan. 1, 2020.

This story originally appeared on the New York Post.

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