A week after cancelling other lower division tournaments, the IIHF cancelled the top-tier World Championships in Halifax and Truro, Canada amid concerns over the coronavirus-caused COVID-19 illness, according to Finnish news outlet YLE. The tournament was set to begin on March 31 with pre-tournament games starting on March 25.
The IIHF confirmed the cancellation later in the day Saturday.
According YLE, the decision was made on a conference call on Saturday. The Nova Scotia State Government proposed the cancellation and Hockey Canada reportedly supported them.
The IIHF also announced that Halifax and Truro will instead host the 2021 Worlds, pending final approval by the IIHF Congress.
“It is with great regret that we must take this action,” said IIHF President René Fasel in the article on the IIHF’s website. “It was not an easy decision to make, as we were greatly looking forward to hosting this tournament in Canada. Nevertheless, the decision has been made due to safety concerns for the well-being of players, officials, and spectators.”
The Canadian government considers the risk of the virus “low,” according to their official page on the novel virus.
The IIHF also notes that this will have an impact on the scheduling of Olympic qualifying tournaments, and the IIHF Competition and Coordination Committee will review and make recommendations as to how to proceed.
This is the second major international tournament to be cancelled this season. The fall Four Nations Cup was called off due to a boycott from Sweden’s national team.
The only other previous Worlds tournament to be cancelled was in 2003 due to the SARS outbreak in China, when the eight-team tournament was set to be played in Beijing. The IIHF cancelled the games on March 30, only four days before the preliminaries were set to begin.
According to a press release from 2003, Switzerland, Sweden, Russia and Germany were already in in Beijing at the time, while the Canada, US and Finland were still waiting. As a result, the seeds for the 2004 Olympics were based on the 2003 Rankings rather than the most recent finish.