Thanks to the rapid spread of the Omicron COVID-19 variant across the globe, the IIHF today announced that all tournaments set to begin in January 2022 will be cancelled, including the entire Under-18 Women’s World Championship, and the two bottom Divisions in the World Junior Championship.
For the Under-18 Women’s tournament, this unfortunately marks the second straight year where the entire tournament and all Divisions have been cancelled outright. However, the situation for the World Junior circuit becomes a bit more complicated, as the Top Division is set to begin on 26 December, and Divisions IA, IB and IIA wrapped up last weekend, with promotions and relegations already determined, including Belarus’ return to the Top Division.
How this will impact next year’s Under-20 divisions remains to be seen, as one team (Romania) was already set to be relegated to Division IIA. The two tournaments, set to take place in Belgrade, Serbia (Division IIB) and Querétaro, Mexico (Division III), already saw an initial impact from COVID-19, as each tournament was set to begin one team short, as China withdrew from Division IIB and South Africa from Division III.
Whether this means that Division IIB would play with seven teams instead of six next year, if a team (perhaps China) would be designated to be relegated to Division III for one season, or if the IIHF ultimately decides that no promotion or relegation will apply for any 2023 World Junior tournaments remains to be seen.