As a result of the on-going COVID-19 pandemic and the spread of the very transmissible Omicron variant, the 2022 World Junior Hockey Championship has been cancelled due to consecutive days of players testing positive.
Chris Peters of Daily Faceoff reported that there was a meeting to determine the state of the tournament. Ultimately, they came to the conclusion to cancel the tournament to protect the safety of everyone involved.
The World Juniors is a showcase of all the best and brightest that junior hockey has to offer. Fans look forward to this tournament every year. For the players involved who look to play and represent their country, it is a major blow to the yearly hockey tradition.
Warning Signs Before the Tournament Started
Even though we thought this tournament might provide some sort of normalcy after there were no fans in 2021, the state of the fourth wave did bring some doubt after the emergence of the new variant. As a result, most of the pre-tournament games had to be re-scheduled due to the increase in cases. In addition, new measures were implemented including 50% capacity and mandatory mask wearing at all times in the arena.
That was a red flag that things could get very dicey. On the third day of the tournament, two members of Team USA tested positive and their game against Switzerland was cancelled, resulting in a forfeit and loss. On the fourth day, games between Czechia and Finland and Russia and Slovakia were cancelled as well due to positive tests on Czechia and Russia.
Related: THW’s WJC Coverage
Any team that tested positive had to enter a mandatory quarantine. In a short tournament like this, any games that were delayed would be difficult to make up later on.
The Right Call Was Made
While it’s being reported that there are only four positive tests, this was the right decision despite the low case count. Who knows what might happen next if they weren’t able to contain an outbreak and have no teams to participate.
Also, the safety of the fans and everyone involved in running this tournament could also be at stake. We’ve been in the pandemic long enough to know that immediate action needs to be taken in order to protect and make sure everyone is healthy and safe.
While we would’ve liked to have seen a full tournament, we did manage to see some highlights. We got a treat in watching Connor Bedard make history with a four-goal game and saw Matvei Michkov make his mark in the tournament. We also saw 2022 draft-eligible Finnish forward Brad Lambert improve his stock in this short time with five points in two games. Owen Power, Mason McTavish, Simon Edvinsson showed why they were top prospects in the 2021 NHL Draft.
These are just a few story lines that we got to witness before the closure. The hope remains that they can re-schedule the tournament and resume when things have calmed down. In games where there was a forfeit, they should consider playing those games so that all teams have a fair chance. Until the then, we can only hope for the best.
All Your THW 2022 World Junior Championship Coverage
Peter is in his third year with The Hockey Writers, covering the Toronto Maple Leafs and heading the Draft and Prospects section. He has previously interned at The Hockey News and worked on Toronto Marlies broadcasts for Rogers TV. He currently is the co-host of the podcast Sticks in the 6ix and a frequent guest on Maple Leafs Lounge. Aside from hockey, he also enjoys drumming, animation and impressions/ voices.