World junior hockey championship cancelled due to COVID-19 cases on multiple teams

World junior hockey championship cancelled due to COVID-19 cases on multiple teams
Canada's Owen Power (25) is chased by Czech Republic's Vojtech Jirus (25) during second period IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship action in Edmonton on Sunday, December 26, 2021 (The Canadian Press/Jason Franson).

EDMONTON – The world junior men’s hockey championship in Edmonton and Red Deer, Alta., was cancelled Wednesday in the face of lost games due to COVID-19.

A third game forfeited in two days left the International Ice Hockey Federation, Hockey Canada and organizing committee with few options to continue a tournament with competitive integrity, and they opted to call off the 11-day, 10-country tournament in Edmonton and Red Deer, Alta.

“Following a recommendation by the tournament COVID-19 Medical Group and the IIHF Medical Committee, the IIHF Council has decided that, due to the ongoing spread of COVID-19 and the Omicron variant, the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship will be cancelled to ensure the health and safety of all participants,” the IIHF said Wednesday in a statement.

After two days of games, players testing positive for COVID-19 had put defending champion United States, Russia and Czechia into mandatory quarantines by Wednesday.

Canada was scheduled to play its third preliminary-round game against Germany on Wednesday night.

Teams arrived in Alberta on Dec. 15. Players were quarantined and were tested before being allowed to skate.

The pre-tournament schedule was reduced to one game per team, with the Czechs and Swiss unable to play any because of positive tests for the virus.

Protocols for the 2022 world under-20 championship were established before a surge of the Omicron variant caused the cancellation of six other tournaments in January, IIHF president Luc Tardif said Wednesday in an interview posted on the federation’s website before the tournament’s cancellation.

“It was determined that we would apply additional protocols against the Omicron variant, such as daily testing and the cancellation of most of the exhibition games and attempt to get from the team arrival on the 15th to the start of the event on the 26th with all teams able to play,” Tardif said.

“This was achieved with a minimal number of cases. The key point here is that there was no longer a travel risk for the team as they had already arrived, while the January teams had yet to travel.

“To put this into context, there were eight NHL games postponed when the teams entered their arrival quarantine on the 15th, by the time we had accepted the recommendation to cancel the January events on the 23rd there were 62 total NHL games postponed. That is how quickly the situation has changed.”

The cancellation breaks a run of 44 consecutive years of the IIHF’s world-under-20 men’s championship.

The 2021 tournament in Edmonton managed to cross the finish line, with the United States beating Canada in the final game Jan. 5.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 29, 2021.

-By Donna Spencer

The Canadian PressThe Canadian Press

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