KHL 'closely monitoring' situation as it operates amid pandemic

Anton Novoderezhkin / TASS / Getty

The second-biggest professional hockey league in the world defended its decision to continue operating after one of its best teams withdrew from the playoffs amid concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.

"KHL, as a major international sports league, is acutely aware of its responsibility to fans, teams, and staff, and is closely monitoring the situation as it develops and will strictly comply with instructions from state authorities in all participating countries of the championship when it comes to protecting public health," the league said in a statement Saturday night.

"The (COVID-19) pandemic is a rapidly evolving situation, and in this regard, KHL is in consultation with clubs and all relevant authorities to diligently manage the impact of this matter."

Finland-based team Jokerit Helsinki pulled out of the KHL's Gagarin Cup playoffs Saturday, citing the country's guidelines that are intended to combat the outbreak. The club was scheduled to play SKA St. Petersburg in the second round beginning Tuesday.

Last week, Moscow implemented a ban on gatherings of 5,000 or more people, but KHL teams based in the city have continued playing. Dynamo Moscow defeated Spartak Moscow in their first-round series, and Dynamo is now set to face CSKA - a team that also hails from Russia's capital - in Round 2.

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KHL 'closely monitoring' situation as it operates amid pandemic
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