The IIHF today announced, that “out of concern for the safety and well-being of all participating players, officials, media, and fans,” that the 2023 IIHF World Championship, set to take place in Saint Petersburg, Russia next May, would be moved to a different location, due to Russia’s continued and deepening of invasion of Ukraine.
The IIHF, which had already stripped Russia of hosting the 2023 World Junior Championship in February, along with banning Russia and Belarus from competition for the remainder of the 2021-22 season, had left the decision regarding the World Championship until a later date. However, with the Russian invasion passing its second month as of 24 April, and seemingly no end in sight, the IIHF today confirmed the decision, with a replacement host to be named at the aforementioned Congress next month. Saint Petersburg, which was set to build the world’s largest hockey arena (capacity 23,000) for the tournament, has previously hosted the World Championships in 2000 and 2016, co-hosting the latter with Moscow.
What was not mentioned, however, is whether Russian and Belarusian teams will be eligible to participate in next year’s tournament; both teams were removed from the 2023 World Juniors, but no decision has been made regarding men’s or women’s teams participation in the 2022-23 season as of yet. While it seems most likely they will be removed from these events as well, this was interestingly not part of the announcement.
This now marks the third World Championship in four years to be impacted by global events, with the 2020 Worlds in Switzerland cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the 2021 Worlds being hosted solely by Rīga, Latvia, after Minsk, Belarus was stripped of its hosting rights due to safety concerns over protests following a disputed election in August 2020, which saw President and Russian ally Alexander Lukashenko controversially reelected for a sixth term, forcing his opponent, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, into exile in Lithuania.