The International Ice Hockey Federation has officially cancelled all tournaments scheduled for January of 2022. For those concerned about the annual IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship, that annual event will go on as planned, as it officially is considered a December tournament, with opening night being Boxing Day every year.
Despite the World Juniors making the cut, a number of other notable events did not, including that of the 2022 IIHF Women’s U-18 World Championship, set to run from January 8-15 in Sweden. This marks the second-straight year to which top tournament for young female athletes has been cancelled (2021, COVID-19 fallout).
“Following a recommendation by the IIHF Medical Committee due to recent developments in the global COVID-19 epidemiological situation and the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, the IIHF Council has decided to cancel all IIHF tournaments that were scheduled to begin in January 2022,” read a release from the IIHF website.
Alongside the Women’s U-18 Championship, five other tournaments have also been removed from the docket, including three other female events:
- 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 Men’s World Championship Division II Group B (10-15 January 2022, Belgrade, Serbia)
- 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 Men’s World Championship Division III (8-15 January 2022 – Queretaro, Mexico)
- 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women’s World Championship Division I Group A (9-15 January 2022 – Gyor, Hungary)
- 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women’s World Championship Division I Group B (10-15 January 2022 – Radenthein, Austria)
- 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women’s World Championship Division III (21-27 January 2022 – Istanbul, Turkey)
The IIHF wrote that the Women’s U-18’s would not be able to be postponed, as ‘league commitments’ within Sweden would make the host arenas unavailable for games.
“These are hard facts to have to face, and as with last year we must take the difficult decision to cancel men’s and women’s IIHF events, including the women’s U18 top division now for the second year in a row,” IIHF President Luc Tardif said following the announcement. “It is the consensus of the IIHF Medical Committee that the organizers would not have the capability to manage an outbreak of the virus, especially with the rapid transfer of the Omicron variant that we have seen in the NHL and other leagues.”
As expected, the hockey world reacted very strongly to this decision. And to be clear, it was not in favour of the choice made. The Ontario Women’s Hockey Association even publicly volunteered to host the event, expressed the desire for fair treatment of women and girls both at a minor level, as well as that of international competition.
OWHA would be pleased to step up to host the U18 Women's World Championship to ensure the players are supported. We commit to working with @IIHFHockey @HockeyCanada and Federations on timing and safety. https://t.co/nn9J6EIrHO
— Ontario Womens Hockey (@OWHAhockey) December 25, 2021
The Premier Hockey Federation’s Players’ Association also voiced its opinion on the matter, expressing disappointment, but a lack of shock at the all-too-familiar news:
We're disappointed but not surprised the 2022 IIHF U18 Women’s World Championship was cancelled for the 2nd year in a row. We see the inequitable decisions affecting women’s hockey more harshly than our male counterparts. It's even worse this tournament will not be rescheduled. pic.twitter.com/clHvLEso4U
— Players’ Association of the PHF (@nwhlpa) December 24, 2021
In a statement issued following the decision, Hockey Canada said the news of the cancellation was ‘extremely disappointing’.
“We understand the changing landscape and uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic and we know cancelling events is never a decision that is made lightly,” Hockey Canada wrote, after cancelling its U-18 pre-tournament camp. “Our entire team has worked hard both on and off the ice to be ready to compete next month in Linköping and Mjölby, Sweden, even going so far as to cancel our selection camp out of an abundance of caution and to ensure our players and staff would be able to represent Canada on the world stage.”
Of course, the health and safety of all involved is the utmost of importance when hosting international events. However, as former Canadian National Women’s Team captain Hayley Wickenheiser put it, “Womens U 18=-$, World Junior=$$$$$$,” as she wrote on Twitter. “Nothing to do with safety, if they can pull off the WJ. Where there is a will, there is always a way. I question the ‘will’ part.”
Digging deeper, beyond the sponsorships, the ad revenue, television deals and broadcast money, the other side of the equation was put into light by four-time olympian Florence Schelling. Not only are the potential players missing out on representing their national teams, but the cancellation also puts various scholarships, future hockey plans, education and national representation in question.
– THIS IS A THREAD –
Second women's U18 Worlds cancelled in a row, this is a disgrace @IIHFHockey! This is about more than just a tournament. This is about their future – getting scouted, receiving college offers, a scholarship, a sponsorship…
— Florence Schelling (@schellingf) December 26, 2021
With the landscape surrounding the COVID-19/20/21/22 pandemic ever-changing, there is still time for the IIHF and the governing bodies to change their respective tune on the 2022 Women’s U-18 Championship. With nothing but disappointment coming from the most recent announcement, the opportunity to do better is ripe and there for the taking.
IIHF, you’re on the clock.