Why the 2022 World Juniors hockey tournament was canceled after just three days

The COVID-19 pandemic caused the IIHF to cancel the rest of the 2022 World Junior Championship.

The 10-team tournament that features the world’s best hockey players under the age of 20 began on Dec. 26. However, the competition dealt with numerous COVID concerns that ultimately led the IIHF to cancel the tournament, it announced on Wednesday.

“Together with the teams, we came into this event with full confidence in the COVID-19 protocols put in place by the IIHF, the LOC, Alberta Health, Alberta Health Services and the Public Health Agency of Canada,” said IIHF President Luc Tardif in a statement. “The ongoing spread of COVID-19 and the Omicron variant forced us to readjust our protocols almost immediately upon arrival to attempt to stay ahead of any potential spread. This included daily testing and the team quarantine requirement when positive cases were confirmed.

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“We owed it to the participating teams to do our best to create the conditions necessary for this event to work,” said Tardif. “Unfortunately, this was not enough. We now have to take some time and focus on getting all players and team staff back home safely.”

The IIHF had previously canceled all of its other sanctioned events through January on eve of the World Juniors. That included the women’s World Junior Championships, which was canceled for a second consecutive year. However, the governing body attempted to play through the men’s World Juniors nonetheless.

The first two days of games at the World Juniors went on as planned, but on Tuesday, Team USA’s tilt with Sweden was postponed as a result of a positive test in the American camp. Then, on Wednesday, two games were canceled and deemed forfeits after players from Team Czechia and Russia tested positive for the virus.

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The IIHF discussed changing their COVID protocols for the tournament. After Czechia’s forfeit, the governing body announced that all on-ice officials would be masked up for the rest of the games, per The Athletic. However, they weren’t able to make enough changes to continue the tournament, and they were hurt by a less stringent bubble than they had during last year’s tournament, as explained by The Athletic.

Although the IIHF had teams in a “bubble,” it is not as strict as measures taken by various sports in 2020; several teams were staying in the same hotel.

In total, five of the tournament’s games were played before the postponements, forfeits and ultimate cancellations occurred. Excluding forfeit victories, Finland and Canada both posted two wins, tied for the best record in the tournament. Canada’s Connor Bedard and Owen Power were the stars of the tournament after Bedard posted a four-goal game against Austria while Power helped Canada beat Czechia with a hat trick in their first contest.