It has been a really terrible time to be a sports fan the last couple of weeks as league's around the world have completely shut down amid the spread of the coronavirus, a viral outbreak that has now officially been labeled a pandemic around the world. Unfortunately the news on Saturday didn't get any better, especially not for fans of international hockey.
On Saturday morning the International Ice Hockey Federation announced that it would completely shut down it's upcoming World Championship tournament in 2020. This means that, unlike in league's like the NHL for example, there is no hope that the World Championship will take place this year as a direct result of the coronavirus. The IIHF released a brief statement via IIHF president René Faselthis morning.
"This is a harsh reality to face for the international ice hockey family, but one that we must accept,” said Fasel via the organization's official website. “The coronavirus is a global problem and requires major efforts by government bodies to combat its spread. The IIHF must do all it can to support this fight. We have to set sport aside for now and support both the government bodies and the ice hockey family.”
"We accept this decision of the IIHF Council,” said Gian Gilli, General Secretary for the 2020 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Organizing Committee. “But of course, this is a huge disappointment for the Organizing Committee. It is an exceptional situation for all concerned and it is now a question of resolving all the outstanding issues."
There seems to be little doubt that the suspension of play from hockey leagues around the world has been the cause of this announcement, with many of those leagues still looking to complete their respective seasons at a later date. The IIHF would almost certainly struggle to convince teams trying to complete their seasons to release players for their tournament, and that is even if it would have been possible for them to push back the date of the 2020 IIHF Annual Congress which was previously set to kick off in May.
It's just one more blow for sports fans around the world and an especially difficult one for fans like myself who love international hockey.