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Women’s hockey world championships canceled because of coronavirus outbreak

Team USA's Hilary Knight, center, battles Russia's Daria Teryoshkina, left, and Oxana Bratisheva during the 2019 IIHF women's hockey world championships semifinals.
Team USA’s Hilary Knight, center, battles Russia’s Daria Teryoshkina, left, and Oxana Bratisheva during the 2019 IIHF women’s hockey world championships semifinals in April 2019.
(Jussi Nukari / AFP/Getty Images)

The women’s world hockey championships, which were scheduled to start on March 31 and to be played over the course of two weeks in the Canadian cities of Truro and Halifax, were canceled on Saturday due to concerns about the coronavirus outbreak and the safety of players and fans.

Rene Fasel, president of the International Ice Hockey Federation, told the Associated Press that the decision to cancel the event was made during a conference call on Saturday. The tournament was canceled once before, in 2003, when China was set to play host in the face of an outbreak of SARS, another respiratory illness.

In a statement on the IIHF website, Fasel said the organization decided that Halifax and Truro, in Nova Scotia, will instead host the 2021 women’s world championships.

“It is with great regret that we must take this action,” Fasel said. “It was not an easy decision to make, as we were greatly looking forward to hosting this tournament in Canada. Nevertheless, the decision has been made due to safety concerns for the well-being of players, officials, and spectators.

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Dusty Imoo, former goalie development coach for the Kings, took a job in Beijing this season and got a close look at how the coronavirus affected China.

“Ultimately the IIHF Council feels that there has not been enough of an improvement to the coronavirus situation to allow us to safely host a 10-team international tournament within this time frame. We look forward to coming to Canada in 2021.”

The U.S. has won the last five straight women’s world titles. This year’s field, in addition to the U.S., was to be comprised of teams from Canada, Finland, Russia, Switzerland, Japan, Germany, the Czech Republic, Denmark and Hungary. The women’s world championships are the most anticipated event each year for elite female hockey players, many of whom are shunning the National Women’s Hockey League this season because they feel the league doesn’t pay a living wage or provide fair working conditions.

The status of other upcoming international hockey tournaments will be evaluated in the coming weeks, Fasel said. The men’s under-18 world championships are scheduled to be played April 16-26 in Plymouth and Ann Arbor, Mich. The men’s world championships are scheduled for May in Switzerland. “For sure, we are concerned and we are monitoring this,” he said.

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Elliotte Friedman of “Hockey Night in Canada” reported Saturday that the NHL, heeding recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding ways to try to stop the spread of the coronavirus, has told teams to close their locker rooms to the media and instead conduct interviews in a formal briefing area.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly, asked if the league had formulated plans to play games without fans in arenas — a possibility the NBA has raised with its clubs in a memo — said via email: “We are dealing with a rapidly evolving situation and are preparing for all contingencies.”


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