The International Ice Hockey Federation has cancelled the rest of the 2022 world juniors.
In a statement released Wednesday (Dec. 29) afternoon, the IIFH said that the tournament was cancelled due to the spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19.
The IIHF said the decision to cancel the world juniors came right after a Russian player tested positive, necessitating the world juniors to forfeit that team’s game against Slovakia scheduled for Wednesday. This game would have been the third cancelled due to COVID-19 cases, following the following Switzerland-USA and Finland-Czechia matches.
The IIFH said that the “sportive integrity of the event has been compromised” with the cancellation of so many games in such a short period of time.
“Together with the teams, we came into this event with full confidence in the COVID-19 protocols put in place by the IIHF, the LOC, Alberta Health, Alberta Health Services and the Public Health Agency of Canada,” said IIHF President Luc Tardif. “The ongoing spread of COVID-19 and the Omicron variant forced us to readjust our protocols almost immediately upon arrival to attempt to stay ahead of any potential spread. This included daily testing and the team quarantine requirement when positive cases were confirmed.”
The world juniors had been taking place in Red Deer and Edmonton, Alta., where cases have broken new records. Alberta officials estimated that 8,250 cases were reported over the holidays from Dec. 23-27, with the positivity ranging between 17 and 25 per cent.
“We owed it to the participating teams to do our best to create the conditions necessary for this event to work,” said Tardif. “Unfortunately, this was not enough. We now have to take some time and focus on getting all players and team staff back home safely.”
In a statement, Hockey Canada’s Scott Salmond, senior vice-president of hockey operations, called the news “devastating” for players, coaches and support staff.
“From the time our group arrived at selection camp, we have been cautious in our approach to ensure we could arrive in Edmonton healthy and eligible to participate in the tournament, but we recognize how difficult it is to maintain a secure environment given the COVID-19 pandemic,” Salmond said. “Our team has worked hard and made sacrifices to earn the opportunity to represent Canada at the World Juniors, and to potentially play for a gold medal on home ice in front of our fans. We share our disappointment with our fans, the other nine competing teams, and the event staff and volunteers.”