The remainder of the World Junior Hockey Championships in Canada have been canceled due to fears of the COVID-19 outbreak.
The International Ice Hockey Federation announced this Wednesday on the recommendation of the organization’s medical officials. Citing the spread of the coronavirus and the omicron variant, the IIHF canceled the rest of the tournament “to ensure the health and safety of all participants”.
Two matches have already been lost due to positive coronavirus test results between the players of the United States and the Czech Republic, and an imminent one with Russia. Two American players and a Czech player returned positive results, which led to the team being quarantined.
The IIHF Board determined that the integrity of the event had been compromised by the forfeiture, which led to the cancellation.
“We owe it to the participating teams to do everything we can to create the conditions for this event to take place,” said Luc Tardive, President of the International Federation of Architecture. “Unfortunately, that was not enough. Now we have to take some time and focus on getting all the players and staff back home safely.”
The teams arrived in Alberta on December 15. Players were isolated and tested before they were allowed to skate. The pre-tournament schedule has been reduced to one game per team, with the Czechs and Swiss unable to play an exhibition due to positive tests for the virus.
Protocols were in place before a wave of the omicron variant caused six more tournaments to be canceled in January, Tardif said in an interview published on the IIHF website before the cancellation was announced.
“To put this in context, there were eight NHL games that were postponed when teams went into quarantine on arrival on the 15th,” Tardiff said. “By the time we accepted the recommendation to cancel the January events on January 23, a total of 62 NHL games had been postponed. That is how quickly the situation has changed.”
The cancellation broke 44 consecutive years for the IIHF Men’s Under-20 Championship. The 2021 Championships in Edmonton managed to cross the finish line, as the United States beat Canada in the gold medal match on January 5.
Tardif said the tournament modified protocols upon arrival of players, coaches and staff to avoid the potential spread of the virus. This included daily testing and team-wide quarantine authorizations when positive cases are confirmed.
These steps, along with not completely containing participants inside a bubble, explain how the World’s Best Under-20 Championship was called off after nine matches and four confirmed cases.
“Our thoughts are with the players and staff not only in our country but from every country, who have worked so hard and sacrificed so much to get to this point,” said US national junior general manager John Vanbisbroek. “We are proud of our team for doing everything that has been asked of them and will work to ensure that they return home safely.”
Hockey Canada President Tom Rainey and CEO Scott Smith said the host organization understands and supports the IIHF’s decision.
“While we know this was the right decision, our sympathies are with all the participants who had the opportunity to represent their countries on the world stage, and who will not be able to fully realize this dream,” Rennie and Smith said in a statement. .
The Women’s Under-18 World Championships was one of the tournaments canceled in January, with the International Federation of Architecture citing health and safety concerns. USA Hockey and Hockey Canada have asked the International Football Association (IIHF) to reconsider canceling the women’s tournament and instead reschedule in favor of the sport.
The Canadian press contributed to this story.
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