By Jennifer Roback
For the second year in a row, the International Ice Hockey Federation has canceled the years' biggest U18 women's hockey events, sparking outrage amongst the hockey community.
On December 24, 2021, the IIHF announced the cancellation of six tournaments due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, including the U18 Women’s World Championship, U18 Women’s World Championship Division I Group A, U18 Women’s World Championship Division I Group B, and the U18 Women’s World Championship Division III.
“These are hard facts to have to face, and as with last year we must take the difficult decision to cancel men’s and women’s IIHF events, including the women’s U18 top division now for the second year in a row,” IIHF President Luc Tardif said in a statement.
“It is the consensus of the IIHF Medical Committee that the organizers would not have the capability to manage an outbreak of the virus, especially with the rapid transfer of the Omicron variant that we have seen in the NHL and other leagues."
The league later went on to call the U18 Women’s World Championship “an important part of strengthening and building ice hockey on the girls’ and women’s side.”
While the cancellation might not come as a shock to some due to these unprecedented times, others were outraged because the prominent men's events have still been held during the pandemic, with many hockey fans accusing the league of prioritizing these events over the women's.
Olympic hockey player Kendall Coyne Schofield, called the decision "UNACCEPTABLE."
"The @IIHFHockey has prioritized/held top division mens events during the pandemic but the top division womens events - cancelled again. UNACCEPTABLE," Schofield tweeted. "Figure out how to safely play the U18 Worlds this season, just like the U18 men & #WorldJuniors. These players DESERVE to play too."
Three-time Canadian Olympic Gold Medalist Gillian Apps added: "Too many men making too many decisions for women. @IIHFHockey you continue to disappoint players around the world with your poor problem solving skills."
Others have since asked the league for answers and an explanation on why the men's World Juniors Championships, which began on December 26 and will run through January 5, 2022, has continued to take place despite the surge in Omicron cases.
"So, @IIHFHockey, you decide to cancel Women’s U18 Worlds, however, the World Juniors are happening as we speak!?! These girls work just as hard as the men to represent their countries, and to have that ripped from them while the men live out their dreams? I need answers," University of Wisconsin Alum, Melissa Channell stated.
In a statement to Women In Sports, the IIHF revealed that the reasoning they were unable to move the tournaments to a later date was due to scheduling conflicts.
"In order to postpone an event, an agreement has to be reached between the IIHF, the participating teams, and the host organizer. In the case of the womens’ U18s the 2022 host organizer Sweden, which bears the majority of the costs for hosting and running an international tournament (including testing) was unable to find an alternative date that would work due to domestic league commitments," the league wrote. "For the other five, it was not possible for any other dates due to other tournaments scheduled to take place later in the international calendar."
The statement continued, "...The medical committee’s recommendation to cancel the six January events took into account the travel risks that the teams playing in the January tournaments would have faced. There is a general belief among the medical committee that the Omicron variant will peak through January, and that the tournament organizers for these events would not have been able to safely manage an outbreak."