This year's International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Women’s World Championship has been moved from April to May, with organizers hoping the delay increases the chances of teams being able to travel to Canada and compete. The following information was published in Inside The Games:
The Nova Scotian cities of Halifax and Truro are due to host games, with May 6 to 16 now "tentatively" timetabled as the dates for the event. April 7 to 17 were the previous dates given, after the coronavirus pandemic led to the 2020 Women’s World Championship - which Nova Scotia was due to stage - being cancelled.
When announcing the delay, the IIHF stressed that these dates were not definitive, especially with the Organizing Committee's health plan not yet signed off by federal or provincial authorities. Ice hockey's global governing body also pledged to increase its financial support for the tournament, with teams' travel costs set to be higher than anticipated and the Organizing Committee likely to miss out on the majority of if not all ticketing revenue.
Hockey Canada President and chief operating officer Scott Smith said the organization "knows it will have strict support from all participating federations as it relates to adhering to the final health and safety plan that will focus on quarantining, COVID-19 testing, single-room isolation, masking, proper hygiene and social distancing.
"Hosting a successful world championship this season means ensuring the health and safety of everyone involved, which continues to be our top priority." Smith added that the "extra time to prepare will help us provide a world-class experience for the participants while maintaining the health and safety of all participants and the community at large".
Nova Scotia, which has a population of a little less than a million, reported low COVID numbers. There have been 65 coronavirus-related deaths in the province since the pandemic began. Travel restrictions and the health status in the competing countries are therefore likely to be the critical factors in determining whether or not the event can take place.
Defending champions the United States, Finland, Japan, Switzerland, Germany, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Denmark and a Russian side are set to join the host nation at the tournament.
"We know how important this event is in the women’s ice hockey calendar, especially considering that we could not have a tournament last season and now with the Olympics on the horizon," IIHF President René Fasel commented. Referencing increased financial support, Fasel added he was "glad we were able fill the gap and ensure the Women’s World Championship can take place with all 10 teams".
Canada has staged the IIHF Women’s World Championship seven times before, and Halifax hosted games in 2004. The nation also staged the IIHF Junior World Championship in Edmonton at the turn of the year, adopting a bubble concept to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and sending an official home at one stage for repeatedly flouting the rules.
Coronavirus-related safety concerns were cited by the IIHF as a reason for stripping Belarus of co-hosting rights to the Men's World Championship this year, although the governing body was also facing growing calls to take the event away from Belarus because of dictator Alexander Lukashenko's harsh crackdown on pro-democracy protesters and alleged breaches of human rights.