The women’s world hockey championships in China were called off Sunday because of the mysterious disease that has killed at least 57 people and sickened 1,600 worldwide.
The tournament was scheduled to start Thursday and end April 9. The International Ice Hockey Federation in Zurich said it could no longer assure the health of the teams and has yet to decide whether this year’s event will be rescheduled.
The IIHF advised teams in the eight-nation tournament to return home as soon as possible.
Switzerland, Sweden, Russia and Germany already were in Beijing with the Chinese team. Squads from the United States, Canada and Finland were about to leave. The U.S. and Canadian teams originally were scheduled to leave Thursday but delayed their departures.
“Obviously our team, players and staff wanted to play,” said Doug Palazzari, executive director of USA Hockey.
“It is a huge part of our program. At this point we think the IIHF made the right decision under the circumstances. It is a very, very difficult situation obviously. But we have to consider first and foremost the safety of our players and staff.”