The IIHF officially cancelled all January 2022 tournaments, which will cancel all four U18 women’s tournaments for the second year in a row.
ESPN’s Emily Kaplan reported the news initially Thursday night, and Friday morning’s statement by the governing body confirmed it.
The IIHF Medical Committee determined organizers would not be able to manage the spread of Omicron at the tournaments and decided to cancel. The organization also cited “league commitments within Sweden” as a reasoning for why they could not postpone the U18 women’s tournament.
In stark contrast, the men’s World Junior (U20) tournament is still slated to start on Dec. 26 in Edmonton, Canada with fans in attendance. Pre-tournament games were happening quite literally as initial reports of the cancelation were making their way around social media.
Due to ongoing concerns regarding the spread of the Omicron variant, The IIHF Council has made the difficult decision to cancel all tournaments scheduled for January 2022.— IIHF (@IIHFHockey) December 24, 2021
More at https://t.co/ojtCWinZ91 pic.twitter.com/TSvNRiCpTx
The top division U18 tournament featuring the US, Canada, Russia, Finland, Sweden, Czechia, Switzerland, and Germany was set to begin on Jan. 8, 2022 in Sweden.
The three lower divisions would start in the following days: Division I Group A in Gyor, Hungary on Jan. 9, Division I Group B in Radenthein, Austria on Jan. 10, and Division II in Istanbul on Jan. 27.
The news comes as COVID-19 outbreaks continues to cause shutdowns and closures across hockey.
On Dec. 22, Hockey Canada announced they cancelled their U18 selection camp due to COVID concerns. The final Rivalry Series/My Why Tour game between the US and Canada on Dec. 20 was cancelled for similar reason. The Montreal hub in the PWHPA pulled out of a Dream Gap Tour showcase because of changing restrictions in Canada, and the PHF’s series between the Boston Pride and Metropolitan Riveters was postponed due COVID-19 protocols impacting the Pride.
In addition, the NHL started their holiday break early as the list of players on COVID-19 protocol grew rapidly and forced numerous games to be postponed.
Although the world is in the second year in the grips of the pandemic, this isn’t the first time men’s tournaments at any level are being played while the women’s tournaments are cancelled.
In 2021, all of the U18 women’s tournaments were cancelled on Sept. 17. On the exact same day, the IIHF announced the top division of World Juniors (U20) was being moved to a bubble in Edmonton, Canada. In addition, the U18 men’s tournament was moved and played. The U18 women - the only age besides the the senior team - didn’t play at all.
In this round of cancellations, only two of the six U20 men’s tournaments will be impacted - U20 Division II Group B and U20 Division III. The U18 and senior level men’s tournaments and the senior level women’s - with the exception of the top division senior women’s tournament - are scheduled for March, April, and May 2022. The top division women’s tournament is scheduled for August 2022, the first time it will be played in an Olympic year.
The last time any U18 women’s tournaments were played was late December 2019 and January 2020.
Editor’s note: This story was updated with the IIHF statement.