The situation surrounding the International Ice Hockey Federation's World Junior Championship has deteriorated to the point that now National Hockey League executives and general managers are quietly voicing concerns and in some cases even calling for the tournament to be stopped outright.
Things got off to a rocky start for the tournament when players began testing positive for COVID-19 prior to even travelling to the tournament, and the travel wasn't much better. We reported last weekend on the situation that caused 6 of the teams participating in the tournament to be stranded at the airport after they had been expected to all fit onto just 2 total planes. Having 3 teams per plane of course raised another host of concerns during this current pandemic and surprise surprise, in spite of playing inside the Edmonton bubble that produced 0 positive tests for the NHL during the league's return to play, the tournament has now seen a host of positive tests since players have arrived as well.
In a recent article for the Toronto Sun, Toronto sports columnist Steve Simmons revealed that he had spoken to several NHL executives about the matter who agreed to comment on the situation under the condition of anonymity. Given the high profile nature, and frankly the massive popularity, of the World Juniors it is understandable that they wished to keep their concerns private.
One NHL executive stated that he would cancel the tournament outright:
"If I was in charge, I would cancel it now," he said as per Simmons.
Another suggested that moving forward with the tournament would be "a very foolish endeavour," again understandable given the number of positive tests and the potential danger that this poses to the young men in the tournament.
This comes off the back of news that a whopping 10 positive tests were uncovered inside the bubble, 8 members of the German team and 2 members of Sweden's staff accounted for the 10 positive tests. The positive tests have resulted in those players being isolated until December 24th, the start date for the tournament, and it is unclear at this time whether or not they will be eligible to participate in the tournament proper. This has also led to a number of games on the schedule being cancelled, including the exhibition games that had been previously scheduled for both Sweden and Germany.
Thus far it would appear that the IIHF plans to move forward with the tournament, but it seems clear that not everyone is on board.