Canadian junior team cuts players, resumes selection camp after positive COVID-19 tests
Hockey Canada official insists stringent protocols, testing will make tourney safe
Canada's top junior male hockey players returned to the ice Tuesday following a 14-day quarantine, although there were fewer of them.
Five players were released from Canada's selection camp roster in Red Deer, Alta., because they were "unfit to continue to play based on return-to-play protocols," according to Hockey Canada senior vice-president of national teams Scott Salmond.
Canada's camp halted Nov. 26 after two players and one non-core staff member tested positive for COVID-19.
Defencemen Matthew Robertson, Mason Millman and Daemon Hunt and forwards Ridly Greig and Xavier Simoneau were sent home before camp resumed.
"Those five players, obviously a very, very difficult position and situation," Salmond said on a media conference call.
"This is not a hockey decision. This is a health decision based on return-to-play protocols. They were unable to continue with camp today. Feel horribly for those kids."
Tournament starts Dec. 25
The world junior hockey championship opens Dec. 25 in Edmonton.
The nine other international teams are scheduled to arrive by charter flight Sunday.
Some are already minus players because of the virus.
Any player, coach or team staff member who tested positive for the virus after Nov. 29 is ineligible to enter Edmonton's "bubble."
Exhibition games are planned for Dec. 20-23.
Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Howard Njoo said discussions remain ongoing with the Alberta government and Hockey Canada.
"We've been in active discussions with officials in Alberta, both public health and Hockey Canada," Njoo said during a press conference on Tuesday. "The protocols we see from a pure technical public health perspective — I think I mentioned this earlier — look good with respect to the fact they intend to use the same bubble concept as was successful for the NHL and also with the NBA with their playoffs last year.
WATCH | Feds to revisit world junior plan:
International Ice Hockey Federation president Rene Fasel simultaneously announced Tuesday that he's tested positive for the virus, and that the tournament will go ahead in Edmonton.
"Preparations will continue within the IIHF for the upcoming 2021 IIHF world junior championship," Fasel said in a statement.
"The IIHF staff and officials that have been assigned to work at the tournament in Edmonton are currently undergoing the pre-departure quarantine protocol that is being followed by all participating teams and game officials."
Germany's hockey federation announced Tuesday in a social media post that a pair of forwards can't attend camp because they've contracted the virus.
Swedish coach Tomas Monten, assistant coach Anders Lundberg and a video coach have also tested positive.
Four Swedish players have been removed from that country's roster in the last four days: William Eklund, Karl Henriksson, William Wallinder and Albin Grewe.
"This is obviously worrying and a difficult situation where our ultimate responsibility is the safety of players and leaders," Swedish federation secretary-general Johan Stark said in a statement on the organization's website.
"This is a serious situation from a safety perspective and we must follow this hour by hour and we also have a close dialogue with the International Ice Hockey Federation to describe our situation and review our alternatives."
An eight-team minimum is required for the tournament to go ahead, Salmond said.
"It's difficult and you hold your breath every day," he said. "You hope, not only for our sake, but others that they can get to Edmonton on the thirteenth, be healthy and have a real strong competition."
Canada's 25-player roster will be named following intrasquad games Wednesday and Thursday.
- A previous version misidentified Swedish coaches Tomas Monten and Anders Lundberg as players and had the incorrect arrival date for the other teams.Dec 08, 2020 3:38 PM ET
With files from CBC News