NHL considering closing locker rooms to media amid coronavirus outbreak

The NHL is weighing a number of options, including closing locker room access to the media, as the concern over the coronavirus escalates, commissioner Gary Bettman said Saturday.

"We're focused on the fact that the tightness, the crowdedness and the intimacy of postgame availability may need to be adjusted while we're focusing on the coronavirus," Bettman said in Sunrise, Florida, while appearing at the Montreal-Florida game for Roberto Luongo's jersey retirement.

Earlier on Saturday, a source told ESPN that the NHL planned to close locker room access to the media and that all media availability would be conducted in formal news conference areas.

Bettman said he wouldn't be surprised if the closed locker room becomes a league-wide mandate for at least the short term "because it may be the prudent thing to do." He said it would be an "adjustment" and that no decisions would be permanent.

"A locker room is different from being in the stands," Bettman said.

The NHL has already banned international travel for league office employees.

At the general managers meetings in Boca Raton, Florida, last week, the league provided updates on how it plans to handle the growing threat. Deputy commissioner Bill Daly told ESPN on Monday that the league was "starting to explore contingency plans" should the coronavirus become a more significant health threat in North America ahead of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Daly did not rule out options such as postponing or canceling games, or even playing games in empty arenas.

"I think it's very unlikely -- knock on wood, I'm hopeful -- that we would progress to a stage where we have to consider something that dramatic," Daly said. "But certainly everything is possible, and we have to look at all possible contingencies. If it gets to that point, we will be ready."

The NHL has said it will follow the lead of the CDC and Public Health Canada.

The NHL has said it will likely not send teams on a preseason trip to China in the fall, in part due to the coronavirus and difficulties in scheduling. The NHL has scheduled a game in Prague, Czech Republic, to open next season, as well as preseason games in Germany and Switzerland. The league will also send teams to Helsinki, Finland, for two games in November. Daly said that as of now, he doesn't think those games will be affected.

"This is an evolving situation, so you get up every day and see what the latest news is," Daly said. "Certainly, we hope that it won't even be a concern."

Information from ESPN's Emily Kaplan and The Associated Press was used in this report.