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Sioux City Musketeers hockey season suspended because of coronavirus

Sioux City Musketeers hockey season suspended because of coronavirus

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Musketeers defeat Stampede

Sioux City Musketeers' Christian Jimenez shoots in a Feb. 8 game against Sioux Falls at the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City. Jimenez was named to the All-USHL Rookie Team earlier this offseason. 

SIOUX CITY -- The Sioux City Musketeers hockey season has been suspended because of concerns about the potential spread of coronavirus.

Following the lead of other American sports leagues, the United States Hockey League suspended its season, leaving the future of the remainder of the season in limbo.

"I think to hit pause is tough. The dialogue we talked about was health. As long as these kids are under our watch, we need to ensure their safety," Musketeers coach Luke Strand said. "I think when you look at the big picture, it's the right decision to make. When you listen to the directive of those in that profession, we are following suit and staying with the league's directive and go from there.

"It's a situation where you have to be able to take the health first."

The USHL issued the following news release: "The USHL announced Thursday its decision to suspend game play effective immediately and until further notice. The decision was unanimously made by the USHL Board of Directors with the best interest of USHL athletes, staff, officials and fans in mind.

"In addition, all hockey activities, including practices, workouts and meetings have also been been suspended until further notice. The league continues to closely monitor the situation and will use this hiatus to determine next steps regarding the 2019-20 season."

A Musketeers official said the organization has suspended all ticket sales for the remainder of the season. Information about possible refunds for all previously sold tickets and season tickets will be released next week.

Strand said he hasn't seen something like this happen during his time in the industry.

"It's a first. You have seen ownership cease operation or a team fold but nothing like this," Strand said. "These are the best players of their age group and they are doing worldly things. To take that opportunity away is disappointing but you also have to ensure their health."

The Musketeers had 14 games remaining on their regular season schedule. Four of those were home games.

The Musketeers were 16-24-7-1 on the season with 40 points. Sioux City was scheduled to play the Muskegon Lumberjacks Friday night and Saturday, in Muskegon, Michigan.

Strand said there is no definitive timetable on when play will resume. It's unknown whether the players, who are of high school and college age, will stay in Sioux City or return home until play resumes.

"(We will) review it and I think there will be due diligence about the situation," Strand said.

The National Basketball Association on Wednesday night was the first U.S. professional sports league to suspend play. The National Hockey League and Major League Soccer did the same Thursday.

The threat of the coronavirus also has led to the cancellation of college basketball tournaments across the country. Earlier Thursday, the NAIA women's basketball national championship tournament in Sioux City was cancelled.

Sports editor Justin Rust contributed to this article.

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