On Wednesday, the International Ice Hockey Federation announced the decision on the advice of its medical staff. The IIHF cancelled the remainder of the tournament due to the spread of the coronavirus variant and the omicron variant. This was done "to ensure safety and health for all participants."
Two games were already forfeited due to positive coronavirus tests among U.S., Czech and Czech players. Another game was expected with Russia. Two U.S. and one Czech players had both returned positive coronavirus tests, which led to the team being placed under quarantine.
The IIHF council ruled that the forfeits had compromised the integrity of the event, and therefore the event was cancelled.
"We owe it to the participating groups to do our best for this event," IIHF President Luc Tardif stated. "Unfortunately, this wasn't enough. Now, we need to focus on getting all the players and team personnel home safely.
On December 15, teams arrived in Alberta. Before being allowed to skate, players were tested and quarantined. Due to positive virus tests, the pre-tournament schedule was cut to one game per team. The Swiss and Czechs were unable to participate in an exhibition.
Tardif stated that protocols were in place before an omicron surge caused six tournament cancellations in January. This was in an interview published on the IIHF website prior to the announcement of cancellation.
Tardif stated that eight NHL games were postponed after the teams entered the quarantine. "There were 62 NHL games that had been postponed by the time we accepted the recommendation to cancel January's events on the 23rd. This is how quickly things have changed."
This cancellation ends 44 years of consecutive years for IIHF's Under-20 Men's Championship. The 2021 tournament at Edmonton saw Canada beat by the United States in the gold medal game.
Tardif stated that tournament protocols were adjusted almost immediately upon arrival of players, coaches, and staff to prevent possible spread of the virus. This included daily testing, and mandated quarantine for all teams when positive cases were confirmed.
These steps and the fact that participants were not fully contained within a bubble led to the cancellation of the tournament for top players under 20 years old.
John Vanbiesbrouck, U.S. junior team general manager, stated that "our hearts go out to players and staff of not only our country but all nations who have worked so hard to get here" "We are proud of our team and will do everything to ensure their safe return home.
Hockey Canada President Tom Renney and Hockey Canada CEO Scott Smith stated that Hockey Canada understands and supports this decision by the IIHF.
Renney and Smith released a statement saying that they believe this decision is right.
The IIHF had to cancel the women's world championship under-18, citing safety and health concerns. USA Hockey and Hockey Canada requested that the IIHF reconsider cancelling the women's tournament. Instead, they rescheduled the event for the benefit of the sport.