Sports are often an escape from the difficulties of everyday life, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced America’s largest sports leagues to cut seasons short, introduce widespread safety protocols, play games without fans, and even rework divisions to minimize travel risks.
Even when international events like the Olympics were canceled in war time, American sports leagues typically played on. While the effects of this pandemic are certainly unprecedented in some ways, there have been several instances in the past in which sports fans missed portions or even an entire season. These cancellations happened due to labor lockouts, tragedies, and major historical events.
24/7 Wall St. looked back at mass cancellations of NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL games caused by major past events, using sources including the Sport Reference family of sites. We only considered events that affected multiple games across one or more leagues. For instance, the 1919 Stanley Cup final was canceled because of the Spanish influenza outbreak as most of Montreal’s players were sick before the decisive game six. As just one game was canceled, that case did not make this list of mass cancellations.
While the cancellation or limitation of sporting events is frustrating for athletes who may be denied a shot at a championship and for fans who enjoy watching at home, these events are staffed by thousands of food vendors, security workers, and other support staff at venues who are now out of work. Some players and owners have pledged their own money to help staff, but these workers remain among the many Americans facing huge economic challenges because of the pandemic. These are the state economies hit hardest by COVID-19.