IIHF cancels 18 more tournaments, postpones women’s Olympic qualifiers

International Ice Hockey Federation President Rene Fasel. (Mark Humphrey/CP)

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to 18 more international hockey tournaments being cancelled, the IIHF announced on Wednesday. To date, 28 tournaments have been cancelled since the pandemic began.

In a statement, the IIHF said “all 2020-21 tournaments in the lower division men’s senior, women’s senior, and men’s U18 categories have been cancelled.” As a result, the only tournaments remaining on the schedule for this winter are: the 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship, the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship, the 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship and the 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship.

In addition to the cancelled tournaments, the Women’s Olympic Pre-Qualification tournament for the 2022 Beijing Winter Games has been postponed. The first round of the tournament will now be played in August, the second round in October and the final round in November, pending approval from the IOC. The men’s pre-qualification tournament remains scheduled for August.

The upcoming World Junior Championship in Edmonton will be played in a bubble format similar to the NHL’s return-to-play post-season this summer, but IIHF president Rene Fasel acknowledged that plan couldn’t be replicated by a majority of the tournaments.

“During the last Council meeting we agreed that to require each tournament host to operate a competition ‘bubble’ was not a practical request for most organizers outside of the top divisions,” said Fasel in a statement. “The capability of these organizers to hold a tournament has been reduced significantly due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the IIHF does not have the resources necessary to properly supervise the safe operation of these tournaments.”

After meeting with tournament organizers and member nations over the last few months, the IIHF Events Department had the following takeaways for why hosting tournaments in the near future would be difficult.

• Few tournament organizers could safely and sufficiently implement COVID-19 rules and protocols.

• A mandatory quarantine before a tournament would put undue hardship on players with other jobs or commitments.

• Travel restrictions and financial risks were not manageable for most member nations.

• In U18 divisions, most parents were against the idea of sending their children to play in these tournaments.

• Member nations were not interested in playing if the opportunity for promotion or relegation was not available.

The IIHF Council will meet again in January, after the world juniors, to re-evaluate whether the men’s world championship, the women’s world championship and the under-18 world championship can still be played.

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