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IIHF head defends lack of Plan B for cancelled women's world hockey championship


International Ice Hockey Federation president Rene Fasel says the cancelled women's world hockey championship did not have a Plan B because it didn't appear there was need for one, and it wasn't logistically or financially possible.

The fallout from the abrupt cancellation of the 2021 women's championship in Halifax and Truro, N.S., continued Friday with players still reeling from a tournament given the go-ahead from the province's chief medical officer and cancelled a day later by its premier.

The 2020 women's championship in Nova Scotia was called off because of COVID-19. This year's tournament was delayed from April to May 6-16 in hopes the pandemic situation would improve.

While the IIHF and Hockey Canada have vowed to reschedule the tournament in Canada this year, American stars Hilary Knight and Kendall Coyne Schofield were unsatisfied by that response.

"The cancellation of the women's world championship at the last minute this week was just another reminder that women's hockey continues to be treated as an afterthought," Knight wrote Friday in a social-media post.

"The health and safety of the people of Nova Scotia is, and must be, the top priority. However, to cancel this critical event so close to its start with some teams en route to the site to begin an 8-day quarantine process — and provide no other option, is incredibly disappointing."

"To learn that there was no contingency plan and the IIHF is letting 250 of the best players in the world in the world return to their homes . . . with 'we are seeking new dates' is simply unacceptable," Coyne Schofield wrote a day earlier.

Fasel countered his organization and Hockey Canada were confident the tournament would go ahead in Nova Scotia until Premier Iain Rankin pulled the plug Wednesday morning over concerns about rising cases in the province.

"While we must accept this decision, the IIHF is not in agreement with the government’s position insofar as we had done everything necessary to install the proper COVID-19 safety precautions in place and remained in close communication with the relevant government and health authorities and with Hockey Canada throughout the preparation stage," Fasel said Friday in a statement.

"As both the IIHF and Hockey Canada had assurances that this event was going to proceed a few days before the cancellation announcement, this news was completely unexpected."

A backup site requiring approval from another public health authority while keeping two extra arenas and hotel space free for a 10-country tournament "is just not possible from an expense and logistical perspective," Fasel wrote.

The decision to relocate the men's under-18 championship starting Monday from Michigan to Texas was made months in advance, Fasel said.

If next month's men's world championship in Riga, Latvia, is threatened by the coronavirus, the IIHF couldn't immediately switch to a new venue and would be in the same situation as the women's world championship, he added.

"While it is not possible to immediately reschedule to a new date and venue as we must again go through the COVID-19 safety protocol preparation and have organizational discussions with Hockey Canada, we will do everything to ensure that this event can be held as early as summer 2021," Fasel wrote.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 23, 2021.

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press

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