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Surreality in sports world

Tom Moore
Gannett Media
Smyrna/Clayton Sun-Times

What’s happening in the sports world is difficult to fathom.

The NHL on Thursday afternoon followed the lead of the NBA on Wednesday night and MLS on Thursday morning by suspending their respective seasons due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Villanova, which was supposed to face DePaul in the Big East men’s basketball quarterfinals Thursday night at Madison Square Garden, had its conference tournament canceled. The NCAA canceled the NCAA Wrestling Championships and March Madness for men and women after initially saying it would hold the games without fans.

On Thursday, MLB pushed back the start of the regular season, which was slated to begin March 26, by a minimum of two weeks and canceled the rest of spring training for the Phillies and the other 29 teams.

According to a Sixers source late Thursday afternoon, the “team is temporarily self-quarantining players, coaches and select support staff … (They’re) organizing for 76ers players to get testing and testing for support staff who came in close contact or exhibit symptoms.”

Comcast Spectacor, which owns the Wells Fargo Center, sent out a statement Thursday afternoon in which it said all Flyers, 76ers and Wings home games “scheduled at the Wells Fargo Center are postponed until further notice.”

Other events in the building through March 31 are being rescheduled, too.

The NHL, which referred to its decision as a “pause” in the season, essentially had to do it once the NBA’s Rudy Gobert, a center for the Utah Jazz, tested positive, followed by Jazz teammate Donovan Mitchell reportedly testing positive, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Given how NBA and NHL teams and players share buildings and facilities, the risk was simply too great to continue.

While the NHL Players’ Association put out a statement that ended by saying “the players are looking forward to the opportunity to resume play in front of fans everywhere,” it’s unclear when — or if — that will happen.

The first, and most important, factor is determining how long it will take for the virus to no longer be a threat and when tests will safely show as much.

Once that occurs, the leagues would have to decide how much time it’d take for teams to be ready to play games again, and whether to try to make up the missed games or to proceed right to the playoffs.

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban told reporters Wednesday night that the league would permit NBA players to work out at their teams’ practice facilities, which would theoretically enable them to stay in shape if they choose to do so. It’s unclear if NHL players would also be able to work out at their facilities.

The Flyers have reportedly been checking for available dates into July at the Wells Fargo Center to see what their options would be beyond when the playoffs typically end in early June.

The NBA has crowned a champion in every one of its previous 73 seasons, including twice during lockout-shortened campaigns in 1999 and 2012.

The NHL, which dates to 1927, has had a team hoist the Stanley Cup every year except for 2004-05, when a lockout wiped out the entire season.

Yes, it’s too bad the NHL season was halted with less than a month remaining and the NBA season stopped with a month to go.

The Flyers are second in the Metropolitan Division, one point behind the first-place Capitals, with 13 regular-season games left. Under first-year coach Alain Vigneault, who is illustrating the value of experience, the Flyers, who were in Tampa to play the Lightning on Thursday, look like they could make a legitimate postseason run after not winning a playoff series in eight years.

As it stands now, the Flyers would have a home playoff series for the first time since 2012.

The Sixers and Pacers have 39-26 records with 17 games remaining, but the Pacers hold the head-to-head tiebreaker so they’d be the fifth seed with the Sixers sixth. The two teams had been scheduled to play in South Philadelphia Saturday night.

While more was expected of the Sixers, who reached the second round in each of the previous two postseasons, perhaps a delay will allow all-star point guard Ben Simmons, who has missed 2½ weeks with a pinched nerve in his lower back and will be out at least three more, to get healthy and return with more games remaining than he would have before All of these issues are matters to ponder on another day. Right now, there are far more pressing concerns.

Tom Moore: tmoore@couriertimes.com; @TomMoorePhilly