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Women’s hockey world championships in N.S. cancelled due to coronavirus threat

Women’s world ice hockey championships cancelled due to COVID-19
WATCH: The championships would have been played this month in Halifax and Truro, but they were cancelled over fears of the virus spreading. Jesse Thomas has more.

The 2020 International Ice Hockey Federation Women’s World Championship has been cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak, Hockey Canada said Saturday.

The event was supposed to be held from March 31 to April 10 in Halifax and Truro, Nova Scotia.

Hockey Canada CEO Tom Renney said the tournament was called off under the recommendations of the IIHF and Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health.

“This decision was made in the best interest of the players, fans, staff, volunteers and the general public, and we fully support the IIHF’s decision,” he said in a statement.

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Ten teams from top women’s hockey countries were expected to compete. Renney said he has a commitment from IIHF that next year’s worlds will be held in Nova Scotia, pending approval of the IIHF Congress.

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Gina Kingsbury, director of women’s national teams, said the cancellation was “tremendously disappointing” for the athletes, coaches and staff.

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“Turning our attention towards the 2021 world championship, nothing changes in our preparations; we will continue to build our team and focus on competing for a gold medal on home ice next year,” she said.

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Halifax native and team Canada member Jillian Saulnier was also disappointed as this was her chance to compete in her fourth world championship in front of her hometown fans.

“When I heard [about the cancellation] I was a wreck…It was not only going to be a great time for the girls on the team, but definitely a time that I was excited for my family and friends to see us play live,” said Salunier.

“And unfortunately that’s obviously not going to happen.”

The announcement came on Saulnier’s 28th birthday, so it’s tough news.

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IIHF President René Fasel said the decision was not an easy one to make for the IIHF Council, the executive body of the organization.

“Ultimately the IIHF Council feels that there has not been enough of an improvement to the coronavirus situation to allow us to safely host a 10-team international tournament within this timeframe,” he said.

“We look forward to coming to Canada in 2021.”

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Director of media relations for the government of Nova Scotia, Tina D. Thibeau, said in an e-mailed statement to Global that the province was looking forward to hosting the championships, but is prioritizing public health and safety for the time being.

“We are hopeful the world-class event will return to our province in 2021,” said Thibeau.

The cancellation is one of many affecting sports and entertainment events.

On Friday, it was announced that the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, would not be taking place. Multiple news outlets reported that the NBA has asked its teams to prepare plans in the event they are asked to hold games without spectators.

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COVID-19, the illness caused by a new coronavirus that emerged in China, has claimed more than 3,000 lives. As of Saturday, the WHO says there are nearly 102,000 cases around the world, with about 21,000 of those found outside China.

There are more than 50 cases of the virus in Canada.

Canadian health authorities have stressed that the risk of a widespread outbreak remains low.