The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) medical committee, IIHF council, along with the tournament COVID-19 medical group, decided that due to the ongoing spread of COVID-19 and the Omicron variant, the championship tournament would be cancelled to ensure the health and safety of all participants.
The tournament, which draws fans from around the world, was set to wrap up on Jan. 5, 2022.
“Together with the teams, we came into this event with full confidence in the COVID-19 protocols put in place by the IIHF, the LOC, Alberta Health, Alberta Health Services and the Public Health Agency of Canada,” said IIHF president Luc Tardif.
“The ongoing spread of COVID-19 and the Omicron variant forced us to readjust our protocols almost immediately upon arrival to attempt to stay ahead of any potential spread. This included daily testing and the team quarantine requirement when positive cases were confirmed.”
Chris Peters from Hockey Sense first reported the news with Bob McKenzie from TSN confirming it. The decision was made following a positive case in a player on the Russian national team, which would have meant a third forfeit game in the tournament in less than two days.
In a statement, the IIHF said, “the sportive integrity of the event has been compromised, and the event must be cancelled.”
Team Canada was set to take on Germany for its third game in preliminary action Wednesday night.
“Hockey Canada has worked tirelessly since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure it would be equipped to host world-class, international events in a safe and healthy environment,” Hockey Canada president Scott Smith and CEO Tom Renney said in a shared statement.
“Despite our best efforts, and continually adapting and strengthening protocols, we have unfortunately fallen short of our goal of completing the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship and handing out medals on Jan. 5 due to the challenges of the current COVID-19 landscape.”
Preliminary games in each pool would have finished up by Friday with quarterfinals set for Sunday.
Earlier this week, the U.S. team had to forfeit its game against the Swiss due to two of its players testing positive for COVID-19.
The U.S. junior team general manager John Vanbiesbrouck said in a statement they were operating in an “ever-changing” landscape and that it proved to be a challenge.
“We’ve followed the tournament protocol from the outset and will continue to do everything we can to ensure our players have the opportunity to compete at the world junior championship,” Vanbiesbrouck said on Tuesday.
Czechia forfeited its game against Finland on Wednesday after a player tested positive for COVID-19, and there were multiple reports that Russia was going to forfeit its game against Slovakia when one of its players tested positive
“We owed it to the participating teams to do our best to create the conditions necessary for this event to work,” Tardif added.
“Unfortunately, this was not enough. We now have to take some time and focus on getting all players and team staff back home safely.”
—With files from The Canadian Press