IIHF cancels world women's hockey championship
The decision to cancel the championship to be hosted by Nova Scotia was made Saturday
The 2020 International Ice Hockey Federation women's world hockey championship scheduled for Halifax and Truro, N.S., has been cancelled amid the ongoing spread of COVID-19.
The IIHF made the announcement on Twitter Saturday afternoon. The federation said the decision to cancel the tournament was made earlier in the day.
The tournament was scheduled to run from March 31 until April 10.
In a statement, the federation said Halifax and Truro would host the 2021 championship if approved by the IIHF congress.
"It is with great regret that we must take this action," René Fasel, IIHF president, said in a statement.
"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."
This is tough for players, fans organizers and our local <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Halifax?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Halifax</a> community. But. a sound decision based on public health recommendations. We look forward to hosting when the time is right <a href="https://twitter.com/iihf?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@iihf</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/HockeyCanada?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@HockeyCanada</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/womensworlds?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#womensworlds</a> <a href="https://t.co/OWUjJOc5r2">https://t.co/OWUjJOc5r2</a>—@MikeSavageHFX
Fasel said the IIHF council felt there hasn't been enough of an improvement to the coronavirus situation "to allow us to safely host a 10-team international tournament within this timeframe. We look forward to coming to Canada in 2021."
Fasel said the decision will affect the scheduling of the women's Olympic qualifications tournaments.
Hockey Canada echoed the IIHF's statement in an email sent to reporters on Saturday.
"This has been a very unique and difficult season and, while it has given us the opportunity to prepare for worlds with our mini-camps, this is tremendously disappointing for our athletes, coaches and staff who have been working tirelessly all season," Gina Kingsbury, Hockey Canada's director of women's national teams, said in the email.
While there will be no refunds on tickets that have been purchased already, Hockey Canada told reporters during a phone conference on Saturday, adding the tickets will be honoured when the championships return to Halifax and Truro in 2021.
Truro, Halifax mayors react
Mayor Bill Mills of Truro, N.S., told CBC News he found out the tournament was cancelled on Saturday afternoon.
"We've done a lot of preparation work for the tournament, installing sky-boxes, a new broadcast-type centre to accommodate media from around the world," Mills said.
"The other side of it is I feel really disappointed because, tomorrow being International Women's Day and here we had one of the finest women events in the world coming to our town, and all of a sudden it's cancelled."
But Mills said he understands the concerns around coronavirus. He said he's also encouraged by the IIHF announcing it would consider hosting the event in Halifax and Truro in 2021.
"Not all is lost. But I guess the big picture for everybody right now is we hope that this coronavirus will be contained and that we'll be able to rest a little easier," he said.
Halifax Mayor Mike Savage told CBC News he wasn't surprised to hear about the cancellation given the coronavirus situation.
"A lot of volunteers have been involved and I think it was going to be an awesome event both here and in Truro, so it's disappointing but it's fully understandable," Savage said.
Savage said he was thinking of local women who would have had a chance to play in the championship, like Blayre Turnbull and Jill Saulnier.
"We have some great female hockey players in Nova Scotia and there was a great opportunity to showcase the games for women and girls and I'm just very disappointed for them," he said
"But that opportunity is not going to happen this year, but hopefully next year. We can just put it on hold and have a great success next year."
In a statement, the province said it had been looking forward to hosting the event, "but public health and safety is always the first priority."
"We are hopeful the world-class event will return to our province in 2021."
This cancellation marks the second time the women's world championship has been cancelled. The 2003 tournament scheduled for Beijing was called off because of the SARS outbreak in China.
Host Canada was to be joined in the competition by the U.S., Finland, Russia, Switzerland, Japan, Germany, Czech Republic, Denmark and Hungary.
The IIHF had already cancelled six tournaments in March and April due to coronavirus.
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With files from the Associated Press