The 2021 International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Women’s World Hockey Championship has been canceled.
The tournament was set to be hosted in Nova Scotia, Canada, in the cities of Halifax and Truro, however Nova Scotia’s Premier Iain Rankin and the provincial government canceled the championships due to “concerns over safety risks associated with COVID-19”. New COVID-19 variants have emerged in the province, promoting the cancellation (as per ‘Nine new COVID-19 cases announced Tuesday, two more variants identified’, Halifax Today, 4/20/21). Furthermore, 25 additional cases emerged on Wednesday.
Rankin’s official statement on the matter said:
“I sincerely regret the short notice, but the rapidly changing environment dictates this decision in the interest of the safety of Nova Scotians and participants… We have worked diligently with Hockey Canada to ensure we can stage a safe and successful world hockey championship and they have been a great partner, but the safety of the Nova Scotia public and participants is paramount and is the reason for our decision“.TSN
This is the second consecutive year that Nova Scotia has pulled the plug on the tournament, as the province was set to host the 2020 tournament. On Tuesday, April 20, Nova Scotia imposed travel restrictions barring travellers from outside the province, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador from entering unless travel is essential or they’re permanent residents of Nova Scotia.
Oddly, the tournament’s cancelation this year came just days after Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, defended its safety protocols.
The Hockey World Reacts
Many members of the hockey world were not happy with the tournament being canceled. IIHF President René Fasel said:
“This is very disappointing news to receive with just a few weeks until the tournament was to begin [it was set to start on May 6th]. We strongly believe that we had the adequate safety measures in place to protect players, officials, spectators, and all residents in Halifax and Truro, based on the IIHF and Hockey Canada’s experiences from hosting the IIHF World Junior Championship in Edmonton”.Per IIHF Release
American forward and Olympic gold medalist Amanda Kessel took to Twitter to share her disappointment at the tournament’s cancellation.
Players were set to come to Nova Scotia from Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Japan, Russia, Switzerland, and lastly, the tournament’s defending champions, the United States.
Team Hungary had just finished their final practice in Budapest and was scheduled to fly to Nova Scotia when they heard the news. Hungary’s coach Lisa Haley called it “a gut-wrenching experience”. Meanwhile, Canada’s goaltenders had just left the ice after a morning skate at the Scotiabank Centre in Halifax, and their teammates were about to step on the ice just before the tournament was canceled.
Reactions also poured in from people not participating in the tournament. NHL insider Pierre LeBrun said it was “brutal news” and hoped the tournament takes place elsewhere this summer.
Others including reporters and hockey players alike found it unfair that men’s IIHF tournaments have occurred, and that multiple IIHF men’s tournaments are still scheduled to take place.
Since the global pandemic started, the men’s U-20 World Junior Championships were played in Edmonton, Alberta, and the U-18 World Juniors are scheduled for next month in Frisco and Plano, Texas. Furthermore, the men’s World Championship is still set to be played in Riga, Latvia, and with Hockey Canada recently appointing their management team for the championship, it looks like this event is still set to go as scheduled.
IIHF Hopes to Reschedule Tournament
The IIHF hopes to be able to reschedule the tournament. A joint statement released with Hockey Canada stated:
“In the end, we must accept the decision of the government. This does not mean that we will not have a Women’s World Championship in 2021. We owe it to every single player that was looking forward to getting back on the ice after such a difficult year that we do everything possible to ensure this tournament can be moved to new dates and played this year”.Hockey Canada
Overall, despite the tournament’s cancelation being disappointing, there is still hope that it may occur. The international men’s tournaments have all been held or are scheduled to be held in different locations than Nova Scotia, however if the women’s tournament doesn’t occur, it would be unfair that the most recent women’s international hockey tournament occurred in 2019, while men’s tournaments have occurred and are scheduled to occur, since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
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