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IIHF cancels lower division World Championships, moves Olympics qualifiers

Only 1 IIHF women’s hockey Worlds tournament remains on the 2020-21 schedule

(SP)CHINA-BEIJING-ICE HOCKEY-IIHF-WOMEN’S WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP DIVISION I GROUP B(CN) Xinhua/ via Getty Images

Women’s hockey on the international stage took another hit from the pandemic today as the IIHF cancelled all but the highest division of the senior World Championships tournaments for 2021.

Five senior Worlds were cancelled - Division I Group A, Division I Group B, Division II Group A, Division II Group B, and Division III. In all, 31 countries were impacted.

“During the last Council meeting we agreed that to require each tournament host to operate a competition ’bubble‘ was not a practical request for most organizers outside of the top divisions,” said IIHF President René Fasel in the organization’s release.

The IIHF had already cancelled all of the U18 World Championships in September, despite keeping Men’s World Juniors (U20) on the schedule and working to move that tournament to a bubble.

This leaves only one Women’s World Championship left on the schedule - the top tier tournament - which is scheduled for April 2021 in Halifax and Truro, Canada. The IIHF will have a decision about the top tier World Championships in January.

Olympic Qualifying Tournament

In addition, the Olympic Qualifying Tournament schedule was moved again.

Initially set to begin December 2020, the first rounds will take place in August 2021 with the second in October 2021 and the final round in November 2021, just three months before the Winter Games are scheduled to begin.

Seven of the 10 teams for the tournament are already settled. The top six teams based on the IIHF’s rankings received automatic spots in the the tournament. As the host nation, China is the seventh team in the tournament. The top five teams - USA, Canada, Finland, Russia, and Switzerland - will make up Group A while China and Japan will be in Group B along with the three remaining qualifying countries.

The IIHF announced the tournament list in June based on the 31 countries who submitted. In each Round, the winners of each group moves on to the next Round, filling the “Qualifier #” spot in the listed countries. The countries that win Groups C, D, and E will qualify for the Olympics.

As a note, the IIHF release named Norway in both Group C and D, but it would seem as if Denmark should be in Group D.

Final Olympic Qualification (November 2021)
Group C: Czech Republic, Hungary, Norway*, Qualifier 6. In Pribram, Czech Republic.
Group D: Germany, Denmark*, Austria, Qualifier 5. In Fussen, Germany.
Group E: Sweden, France, Slovakia, Qualifier 4. In Sweden (city TBA).
Olympic Qualification Round 2 (October 2021)
Group F: Korea, Great Britain, Slovenia, Qualifier 8. In Gangneung, Korea.
Group G: Italy, Kazakhstan, Spain, Chinese Taipei. In Cortina, Italy.
Group H: Netherlands, Poland, Mexico, Turkey. In Gdansk, Poland.
Olympic Qualification Round 1 (August 2021)
Group J: Iceland, Hong Kong, Bulgaria, Lithuania. In Reykjavik, Iceland.