The next set of tournaments to fall victim to cancellation over the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic were announced today by the International Ice Hockey Federation, with both the Men’s Division II, III and Under-18 tournaments for 2020 now axed.
The Division II and III men’s tournaments, all set to begin on 19 or 20 April, were set to be hosted in Zagreb, Croatia (IIA); Reykjavik, Iceland (IIB); Kockelscheuer, Luxembourg (IIIA); and Cape Town, South Africa (IIIB) respectively. This only leaves the men’s Top Division and Division IA and IB tournaments, which given the current pace, seem likely to fall next; these tournaments are being hosted in Switzerland, Slovenia and Poland, respectively. Seeing as no men’s tournaments had begun (unlike the women’s tournaments), it is likely that the same team structure will be carried over to 2021, with promotions and relegations from 2019 still applicable.
The Under-18 Top Division was cancelled due to a recent ban on European travel into the United States, who would be hosting the tournament in Michigan, which also passed a statewide ban on large event gatherings. The subsequent Division IA and IB tournaments in Italy and Slovakia were cancelled as well, ending the Under-18 season prematurely.
This now only leaves three tournaments left in April and May on the IIHF calendar, the aforementioned Men’s Top Division and Division I tournaments, as no more senior Women’s or Under-18 tournaments are left on the calendar. With the IIHF regrouping for another meeting on 17 March, there is a solid likelihood that these remaining tournaments will be cancelled, leaving the international hockey calendar empty until summer at the earliest, when 2022 Olympic qualifiers are set to start up in August.
With the NHL suspending play as well for at least the next month, and the Euro Hockey Challenge likely to be cancelled (or at the very least, played in empty arenas), things continue to look grim for international hockey, and global sport, as this virus continues to wreak havoc around the world.