Days after the International Ice Hockey Federation announced six events were to be scrapped amid the coronavirus outbreak, it appears the 2020 Women’s World Championship is also set for cancellation.
According to Finnish outlet Yle, Kalervo Kummola, vice president of the IIHF, said that a decision was made during a Saturday conference call to cancel the event. Yle reported that the cancellation was “proposed” by the Nova Scotian government and supported by Hockey Canada. TSN’s Darren Dreger later reported “multiple levels” were involved in the decision, but the choice ultimately fell to the IIHF, who made the call to cancel the tournament.
If the event is cancelled, as is expected, it will mark the second time since the tournament’s official inception in 1990 that it will not be played in a non-Olympic year. The 2003 event, which was slated to be played in Beijing, was cancelled as a result of the SARS outbreak.
The Women’s World Championship is also the seventh event the IIHF has cancelled this week and the last of the nixing of the final event that remained on the March calendar. International hockey’s governing body announced Monday the 2020 U18 World Championship Div. II Group B tournament in Bulgaria was set to be cancelled. Other events cancelled included U18 World Championship Div. II Group A in Tallinn, Estonia; U18 World Championship Div. III Group A in Istanbul, Turkey; U18 World Championship Div. III Group B in Kockelscheuer, Luxembourg; Women’s World Championship Div. I Group B in Katowice, Poland; and Women’s World Championship Div. II Group A in Jaca, Spain. Those decisions came on the recommendation of the IIHF’s medical committee.
Prior to the IIHF’s Monday announcement, the Kyrgysztan government cancelled the World Championship Division IV tournament that was set to be played in early May. In addition, Switzerland’s top two leagues – National League and Swiss League – chose to postpone the beginning of the post-season. The Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association’s planned Tokyo Series event was also cancelled, but the PWHPA stated it will attempt to run the event during the 2020-21 campaign.
There is not yet word on what this means for the men’s 2020 World Championship, which is scheduled for May 8-24 in Zurich and Lausanne, Sui. The IIHF noted earlier this week that it will continue to monitor the situation, but president Rene Fasel there would not be a World Championship played in empty arenas.
According to the World Health Organization’s situation report on Saturday, there are 102,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus globally, with roughly 81,000 within China and more than 21,000 spread across 93 other countries. There has been 213 confirmed cases and 11 deaths in the United States and 51 in Canada, though no reported deaths.
UPDATED: The IIHF made the cancellation of the tournament official Saturday afternoon.
“It is with great regret that we must take this action,” said IIHF President Rene Fasel in a statement. “It was not an easy decision to make, as we were greatly looking forward to hosting this tournament in Canada. Nevertheless, the decision has been made due to safety concerns for the well-being of players, officials, and spectators.”
“Ultimately the IIHF Council feels that there has not been enough of an improvement to the coronavirus situation to allow us to safely host a 10-team international tournament within this timeframe. We look forward to coming to Canada in 2021.”
In addition, the IIHF announced that the Women's World Championship Div. I Group A, which was scheduled for mid-April in Angers, France. However, the cancellation of the 2020 events in Halifax and Truro does not mean Nova Scotia will miss out on its opportunity to host the tournament. Per the IHF's release, the 2021 event will be held in Halifax and Truro pending approval by the IIHF congress.
Per the IIHF's release, the men's tournament remains on the schedule for May 2020 in Switzerland. The IIHF plans to meet in mid-March to reevaluate the coronavirus situation.
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