The International Ice Hockey Federation says eight players from Germany’s team at the world junior hockey championship have tested positive for COVID-19 inside the Edmonton bubble.
The IIHF says the Germans will all remain in quarantine until Thursday. The country is scheduled to open its tournament against Finland the following afternoon — Dec. 25 — before facing Canada on Boxing Day.
The quarantine means Germany, with a roster that includes Ottawa Senators prospect and 2020 No. 3 overall draft pick Tim Stuetzle, will miss exhibition games against Austria and the Czech Republic ahead of the annual under-20 event.
The IIHF also announced two members of Sweden’s team staff have tested positive. The Swedes will stay in quarantine until Monday, with the exception of those exempt from serving longer periods based on previous positive tests that “provide a personal immunity and no threat of infection to others.”
Sweden is scheduled to face Canada in an exhibition game Monday.
The IIHF says over 2,000 tests have been conducted on players, staff and game officials since entering the Edmonton bubble Sunday.
Teams without positive tests were eligible to begin training Friday.
The tournament is scheduled to begin Christmas Day — including that meeting between the Germans and Finns — at Rogers Place. The first exhibition games are slated for Sunday.
Alberta’s chief medical officer of health was pressed about the tournament going ahead during Friday’s daily COVID-19 update. Dr. Deena Hinshaw said the positive tests are a result of “very strict protocols” in place for regular testing.
“Those tests are a result of the system working, identifying those who are positive, making sure they do not have the opportunity to spread to any others and making sure that the bubble is maintained,” Hinshaw said.
“I absolutely recognize that there are many in Alberta right now who would love to play hockey, who would love to play a team sport or do another activity that currently is not permitted under the current restrictions. What I looked at when I was asked to consider whether or not the tournament should go ahead — the world junior hockey championship — primarily my job is to protect public health and I wanted to make sure that the protocols that were in place were rigorous and would not cause any risk to the public. And I am confident that that is the case,” she stressed.
“When considering, again, the challenge of allowing or not the tournament to go ahead, that was a judgement call but I know that many people also get joy from watching these kinds of events. And so, once satisfied that that would not cause harm to the public, I did make the decision to allow it to go ahead for the purposes, again, of providing some entertainment those who are unfortunately not able to engage in those sports at this time.”
The NHL implemented similar bubbles, which are tightly controlled and include strict health and safety measures in hopes of keeping the coronavirus at bay, for the restart of its pandemic-delayed 2019-20 season this summer.
The league said it had zero positive results over more than two months.
With files from Caley Ramsay, Global News.