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National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman, left, speaks to members of the media , Saturday, March 7, 2020, in Sunrise, Fla.

Wilfredo Lee/The Associated Press

NHL teams are beginning to close their dressing rooms to media as a means to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Commissioner Gary Bettman on Saturday said the league would not impose such a restriction, but would leave the decision up to each of the 31 teams.

How the coronavirus is impacting the world of sport

If access to the dressing room is shut down, interviews with coaches and players will be conducted in a more formal setting. At Scotiabank Arena, Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe addresses media in a room adjacent to the locker room after games.

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Earlier on Saturday, the New York Islanders closed off their dressing room to reporters after a game at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum against the Carolina Hurricanes.

“We will, starting [today], pro-act to what we’re all going through to try and prevent as much potential associations with anybody who somehow contracted something,” Islanders president and general manager Lou Lamoriello said. “We cannot control the amount of press that go in the room who have credentials, who come from everywhere. It’d be different if we knew the people.

“What the league has done is given us many materials as far as what to do to prevent. What we have to do in our locker room, what we have to do around everything we do.”

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman speaks to the media before Game 1 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final between the St. Louis Blues and the Boston Bruins in Boston on May 27, 2019.

Charles Krupa/The Associated Press

The Rangers said before Saturday night’s game against the Devils at Madison Square Garden that their dressing rooms would also be closed to the media.

A state of emergency was declared in New York on Saturday after the number of cases of coronavirus rose from 44 to 76 overnight. The flu-like illness has killed more than 3,300 people worldwide and there have been more than 100,000 cases across the globe.

Because of it, the NHL has banned international travel for league-office employees and told teams to prepare contingency plans in case the outbreak gets worse. Players have been advised to minimize contact with fans.

Cleveland Indians' Francisco Lindor, left, signs autographs for fans, signing gloves, baseballs, hats and uniforms prior to the team's spring training baseball game against the Chicago Cubs on Saturday, March 7, 2020, in Goodyear, Ariz.

Ross D. Franklin/The Associated Press

New coronavirus causes cancellation of women’s world hockey championship

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The women’s world hockey championship has been wiped out by disease for a second time, with host Canada the loser of this year’s tournament.

The International Ice Hockey Federation cancelled the 10-country tournament scheduled for March 31 to April 10 in Halifax and Truro, N.S., because of concerns over the spread of the new coronavirus.

“We’re all pretty devastated. We’ve been so excited to have this opportunity to play on home soil in front of the crowd in Halifax that we knew was going to be so engaging and so loud,” said Canadian defenceman Renata Fast, who pointed out that the cancellation comes after the Canadian Women’s Hockey League folded and the Professional Women’s Hockey Player Association walked out on the National Women’s Hockey League, essentially suspending professional women’s hockey in North America.

“This year’s been tough with no leagues, and that doesn’t help the situation. It was probably the biggest moment we were going to have for women’s hockey this year. We’re all pretty devastated,” Fast said. “We understand that health and safety comes first, but it is tough to know that everything we’ve put into this year to grow as a team and the decisions that were made to move forward with the team.”

The 2003 women’s championship in Beijing was called off because of the Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak in China.

The IIHF has assured Canada that the 2021 women’s championship will be held in Nova Scotia, even though Russia was scheduled play host next year, Hockey Canada president Scott Smith said in a conference call. The Public Health Agency of Canada has assessed the public health risk associated with novel coronavirus, which is also known as COVID-19, as low. That risk is continually reassessed as new information becomes available.

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With a report from The Canadian Press

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