IIHF president says U18 women’s worlds could be rescheduled in U.S.

Canada's Kristin O'Neill (43) and United States' Megan Bozek (9) battle for a loose puck during the second period of a women's exhibition hockey game ahead of the Beijing Olympics Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021, in Maryland Heights, Mo. (Jeff Roberson/AP Photo)

The president of the International Ice Hockey Federation is leaving the door open to rescheduling the women’s under-18 world championship in the United States after the event slated to take place in Sweden next month was cancelled last week because of COVID-19 concerns.

In an interview posted on the IIHF’s website, Luc Tardif says his organization has been in contact with USA Hockey, which wants the IIHF to reconsider the cancellation.

“We look forward to having constructive discussions with them to see whether there might be such a possibility,” Tardif said. “But first we need a host that is willing to take this on, and dates that work for all teams.”

The Ontario Women’s Hockey Association also has expressed interest in hosting the event.

Hockey Canada president Tom Renney told The Toronto Star his organization also has asked the IIHF to consider a postponement rather than a cancellation. Tardif does not mention Hockey Canada in the IIHF interview.

The IIHF cancelled six January events last week — four women’s tournaments and two men’s events — because of the current COVID-19 surge. It marked the second year in a row the under-18 women’s worlds was cancelled.

The decision drew sharp criticism from the hockey community, with many pointing out that the world junior men’s championship remains on the schedule (the 2022 tournament started on Boxing Day in Edmonton and Red Deer, Alta.) for the second year in a row.

“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,” Tardif said. “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.”

When asked about the criticism, Tardif said, “This is not a gender issue, this is a COVID-19 issue. I would ask in turn how is it fair to postpone all the time the top divisions and always to simply cancel the lower divisions? These cancellations have affected six tournaments, not just one, including two men’s U20 event that critics seem to conveniently forget.”

Tardif did acknowledge financial issues are part of the equation.

“Is there an economic incentive to host the men’s World Championship and World Juniors every year no matter what? Absolutely. But people misunderstand that this is because we favour men’s hockey over women’s, which is completely false,” he said.

Tardif said the Swedish host committee said it would not be easy to postpone the event until March or April because of men’s and women’s league commitments in Linkoping and Mjolby. Tardif said Sweden also could not commit to dates in the summer.

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