Due to concerns over the COVID-19 virus that continues to spread rapidly across the world, today the International Ice Hockey Federation announced the cancellation of both the Top Division and Division IA tournaments of the 2020 Women’s World Championship.
The biggest shock is over the cancellation of the Top Division, which becomes just the second time in IIHF history that the tournament has been cancelled; it was another virus, the SARS outbreak of 2003, that saw that year’s tournament in Beijing, China cancelled. While the province of Nova Scotia has yet to confirm a case of COVID-19 within its borders, having both athletes from around the world, as well as large crowds amassing from different parts of the globe, was deemed too high a risk to hold the tournament.
The IIHF announced that the 2021 tournament will be instead held in Halifax and Truro (subject to IIHF Congressional approval this spring), and IIHF Rankings, and the schedule for both the 2021 World Championships (as some Divisions had already completed their tournaments, with teams already set to be promoted and relegated), as well as the 2022 Olympic Qualification process, will be confirmed later.
The IIHF also confirmed as well that the only remaining Women’s Championship left on the schedule besides the top Division, Division IA in Angers, France, would also be cancelled. The tournament, set to begin on 12 April, now means that France and Sweden need to wait another year to compete at the Top Division, as they were set to play Norway, Austria, Slovakia and the Netherlands.
This announcement caps off an extremely volatile year for women’s hockey, both at the club and international levels. Following the sudden shutdown of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League following the 2019 World Championship, the Four Nations Cup was cancelled in November over a boycott from Swedish female players over pay disparities within the federation, now marking the first time in history where both major women’s tournaments have been cancelled in the same season. And now, with the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association having to cancel an upcoming Japanese tour, in addition to the Worlds now being cancelled, puts a stamp on an overall disappointing season for women’s hockey.
Now the questions turn to the men’s tournaments set to begin in April and May, and as previously noted, whether the men’s World Championship tournaments, Olympic qualifiers, or potentially even larger global sporting tournaments (such as the NHL playoffs or 2020 Tokyo Olympics) could be cancelled. However, at the going rate of the virus and global response to the pandemic, things are not looking good for the 2020 international hockey calendar.