Dec 30: Following the cancelation, the IIHF has announced that additional cases were confirmed in players across five teams–Canada, Russia, Germany, Sweden, and Slovakia–along with another on-ice official. The federation has also announced that all team members and officials that tested positive will remain in a mandatory minimum ten-day quarantine before returning to their respective countries and club teams.
Dec 29: After three teams were forced to forfeit matches this week following positive COVID-19 cases, the IIHF has canceled the remainder of the World Junior Championship, according to several reports including Chris Peters of Daily Faceoff, Bob McKenzie of TSN, and Emily Kaplan of ESPN. The U.S., Russia, and Czechia all forfeited matches, and before the tournament even began, Finland, Austria, and Switzerland also experienced positive test results.
The IIHF has confirmed the cancelation now, noting that the “sportive integrity of the event” was compromised after three forfeits. They also released this statement from IIHF president Luc Tardif:
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. 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.”
We owed it to the participating teams to do our best to create the conditions necessary for this event to work. Unfortunately, this was not enough. We now have to take some time and focus on getting all players and team staff back home safely.
This cancelation follows the decision to cancel the six other international tournaments in January, but go ahead with the World Juniors as planned. The event was not in a tight bubble like last year, with reports surfacing today that players and staff had even interacted with wedding attendees in the hotel they were staying at.
It is not yet clear when players will depart for their respective clubs, or who exactly tested positive for each country. The official statements from the IIHF have not yet been released.
It’s hard to fathom how exactly the tournament was expected to be played at all if a few positive cases derailed it so quickly, but with the WJC being such a significant financial event for the IIHF, it’s easy to see why they would try. The 2023 event is currently scheduled to be held in Novosibirsk, Russia.
For a player like Owen Power of Canada, this was his one shot at playing in the tournament given he will turn 20 before next year’s event begins. Power was not allowed to leave Michigan for last year’s event because of the uncertain role he would play, and also missed out on the NCAA tournament when his program ended up pulling out because of COVID precautions. It’s been a disappointing stretch for the Buffalo Sabres prospect and other top players of his age group, but he’ll now return to Michigan along with players like Kent Johnson, Matty Beniers, Brendan Brisson, and Luke Hughes with the NHL just over the next ridge.
Others, like Connor Bedard and Matvei Michkov, still have time to participate in future World Juniors but are missing a chance to put up special, record-breaking numbers at their young age. The top picks for 2023 were already impressing fans across the world with their skills and will now return to their club teams to wait for the next international stage. In Bedard’s last game–and the last one that will be played at the 2022 tournament–he scored four goals, becoming the first 16-year-old Canadian to record a hat trick at the tournament since Wayne Gretzky.