One by one, the International Ice Hockey Federation has been forced to strike competitions from the calendar in the wake of the global coronavirus pandemic. But throughout the cancellations of the women’s World Championship, a multitude of U18 events and, most recently, second- and third-level men’s tournaments, the IIHF has held out hope that the men’s World Championship could – and would – be played in Lausanne and Zurich, Switzerland, this coming May.
On Saturday, however, the IIHF accepted that it is no longer possible to stage the top men’s competition and announced that the last of the major 2020 events has been cancelled.
The decision to cancel the top tournament comes mere days after a pair of events that are linked to the men’s World Championship, the Div. I Group A and Div. I Group B tournaments, were stricken from the calendar. The Group A competition is directly connected to the top men’s tournament as first- and second-place teams earn promotion to the following year’s World Championship.
"This is a harsh reality to face for the international ice hockey family, but one that we must accept,” IIHF president Rene Fasel said in a statement. “The coronavirus is a global problem and requires major efforts by government bodies to combat its spread. The IIHF must do all it can to support this fight. We have to set sport aside for now and support both the government bodies and the ice hockey family.”
Added Gian Gilli, general secretary for World Championship organizing committee: “We accept this decision of the IIHF Council. But of course, this is a huge disappointment for the Organizing Committee. It is an exceptional situation for all concerned and it is now a question of resolving all the outstanding issues.”
Among the most pressing issues is when the two Swiss cities can next hold the tournament. In the case of the women’s World Championship, which was originally scheduled to begin in little more than one week’s time in Halifax and Truro, N.S., the IIHF announced its intention to award the 2021 competition to the two Nova Scotian cities pending approval of the IIHF council. However, due to the nature of the way the IIHF awards hosting rights for the men’s tournaments, shuffling the competition back one year doesn’t seem feasible at this time as hosts have been selected through to the 2025 tournament.
Minsk, Belarus and Riga, Latvia have been named hosts for 2021, Helsinki and Tampere, Finland will host in 2022, Saint Petersburg, Russia has been given the green light for 2023, Prague and Ostrava, Czech Republic are the 2024 hosts and the 2025 competition, which does not have host cities at this time, will be split between host countries Sweden and Denmark.
“The potential scenario of a postponement of the World Championship in Switzerland to another year is a matter that must be discussed within the (IIHF) Congress given the fact that the host countries for the forthcoming IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship are fixed until Year 2025,” read the IIHF’s statement. “Therefore, such a decision will not be forthcoming until Congress is next in session.”
When that will be is also in question, though. Originally, the IIHF Congress was set to meet in Zurich during the World Championship. The tournament’s cancellation has also resulted in the meeting’s postponement.
The teams set to participate at the World Championship included Canada, USA, Russia, Sweden, Finland, Czech Republic, Germany, Slovakia, Latvia, Slovakia, Latvia, Denmark, Norway, Belarus, Italy, Great Britain, Kazakhstan and the host, Switzerland.
The IIHF has yet to announce its refund policy, but stated it “will be clarified as soon as possible” by the World Championship organizing committee.
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