The IIHF announced on Wednesday that the remainder of the 2022 World Junior Hockey Championships would be cancelled. This comes after Russia, Czechia and the USA all forfeited games due to COVID-19 cases within their teams.
After just three days of preliminary action, three of the ten participating teams had reported positive tests. Per IIHF protocol, teams with a positive test must quarantine and players must produce two negative tests before the team can play again. It was believed that this would only get worse moving forward, resulting in the cancellation.
In their statement, the IIHF said, “In addition to ensuring the health and safety of participants, the Council has determined that with another forfeiture – the third forfeited game in two days – the sportive integrity of the event has been compromised, and the event must be cancelled.”
Hockey Canada President Scott Smith and CEO Tom Renney also shared a statement. They said, “Hockey Canada has worked tirelessly since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure it would be equipped to host world-class, international events in a safe and healthy environment. Despite our best efforts, and continually adapting and strengthening protocols, we have unfortunately fallen short of our goal of completing the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship and handing out medals on Jan. 5 due to the challenges of the current COVID-19 landscape.”
This comes just days after the IIHF cancelled all tournaments beginning in January due to COVID-19. This included two U-20 men’s tournaments and four U-18 women’s events. They believed they could continue with what had been planned for this tournament with changes to arena capacity.
The IIHF decided against a bubble format similar to what they had last year. This meant teams were staying in hotels with members of the public, leaving extra change for the virus to make its way into the tournament. With the rise of the omicron variant, it became impossible to run a COVID-19 free tournament with the protocols and restrictions that were in place.
While it’s disappointing that athletes will miss out on their opportunity to represent their countries, the cancellation needed to happen. At the end of the day, the health and safety of the participants are the most important thing. That was not prioritized and it led to the issues we saw.
While the IIHF has yet to comment on the future of this tournament, it is believed that there may be an effort to reschedule/continue later in 2022. Hopefully, a bubble can be worked out to hold both the men’s U-20 tournament and women’s U-18 tournament later in the year safely with proper protocols in place.