BREAKING: International Ice Hockey Federation president tells AP women's world championships in Canada canceled because of virus.— AP Sports (@AP_Sports) March 7, 2020
Today, the IIHF is set to formally announce the cancellation of the Women’s World Championships for 2020 because of concerns over COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus named SARS-CoV-2. This tournament, which takes place every year there is no Olympic Games, is the premier international event in women’s hockey and was set to open in Halifax and Truro, Nova Scotia on March 31.
This year’s worlds would have featured USA, Canada, Finland, Russia, Switzerland, Japan, Germany, Czechia, Denmark and Hungary in the second year of an expanded format to 10 teams.
In a year when the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association is running a series of challenge games across North America to raise the profile of the sport as they search for a sustainable professional model, the loss of the capstone tournament of the season is a huge blow. The NWHL is the top-level league now operating in the USA, and their playoffs have begun.
Today in Russia, the Kunlun Vanke Rays, who normally play in Shenzhen, China are leading their Agidel opponents from Ufa in the first game of the Russian WHL final. The score sheet is littered with North American players: Rachel Llanes, Megan Bozek, Alexandra Carpenter, Noora Räty and of course, many Russian and Chinese stars.
Many of those players were ready to come to Nova Scotia in a few days to go for gold. Russia wanted to challenge Finland for their place in the top group, and Finland, who nearly won the gold last year, dearly wanted another crack at it before Räty starts thinking of retiring.
None of that is to be, and this is a serious blow to a sport struggling for attention and to be taken seriously.
A few days ago, the IIHF announced the cancellation of all of their lower-tier March tournaments at the junior level. This meant six events were to be axed, and one other had already been cancelled by the organizers. At that time they said the Women’s Worlds was unaffected. The IIHF was not yet due to meet again for a few days, so this news today has come as a surprise.
The European tournament season continues in April with several lower division men’s events, and the Men’s Worlds in early May. The IIHF is set to decide later this month if any or all of these events will be cancelled as well. The other major North American event is the Men’s U18 Championship set for Plymouth and Ann Arbor, Michigan in mid-April.
Rene Fasel, the head of the IIHF recently spoke to the Russian news agency, and Russian speaker vorky, posted this:
Fasel: We will definitely not play #IIHFWorlds in front of empty arenas.— vorky (@vorkywh24) March 4, 2020
This is a fluid situation and that stance may change.
This was the IIHF PR stance earlier today:
Last year showed that the #WomensWorlds is no place for the faint of heart. There will be plenty of compelling storylines in Halifax and Truro. Time to make some bold predictions: https://t.co/0XfZumxzoh— IIHF (@IIHFHockey) March 7, 2020
So it’s safe to say, things can and will change rapidly on this topic.
Multiple levels involved in this decision, including the province of Nova Scotia. Final decision on cancellation is believed to have been made by the IIHF. https://t.co/RIFpl9XP8Q— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) March 7, 2020
UPDATE: The official release is out.
Due to the ongoing spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), the IIHF Council has agreed today to cancel the 2020 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship, following a recommendation by public health experts.
Subject to formal approval by the IIHF Congress, the 2020 hosts cities Halifax and Truro will instead host the 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship.
The decision was made following an extra-ordinary meeting by the IIHF Council on 7 March. With the cancellation of the 2020 Women’s World Championship, the IIHF Council has also decided to cancel the IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Division I Group A, scheduled to take place on 12-18 April 2020 in Angers, France.
“This decision will have an effect on the scheduling of the Women’s Olympic qualification tournaments,” added Fasel. “The IIHF Competition and Coordination Committee will review the implications of this cancellation and propose recommendations to the Council.”
The IIHF Council will reconvene in Mid-March and re-evaluate the coronavirus situation and the capability of tournament organizers to host the World Championship events in April.
The decision to cancel the 2020 IIHF Women’s World Championship does not influence the planning of the 2020 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship, which remains on schedule.