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IIHF announces 2021 world juniors will be played in Edmonton bubble

Last Updated Sep 17, 2020 at 9:48 am MDT

Team Canada celebrates after defeating Russia in the gold medal game at the World Junior Hockey Championships. (Ryan Remiorz/CP)

EDMONTON – After the success of the NHL’s return in Toronto and Edmonton bubbles, the International Ice Hockey Federation will be using a similar format for the upcoming under-20 World Junior Hockey Championships.

The IIHF announced Thursday that the 2021 edition of the tournament will be held in a bubble in Edmonton without fans. The tournament was originally scheduled to be co-hosted by Edmonton and Red Deer, which will now happen in 2022.

As of Monday, the NHL has gone seven weeks without reporting a positive case of COVID-19 since 24 teams entered the Toronto and Edmonton bubbles on July 26 for the playoffs.

“This is a tough decision to have to take, but ultimately we did not have a choice,” said IIHF president René Fasel in a statement. “The health and safety of players, officials, and fans is our top priority. We were impressed with the presentation from the local organizing committee outlining how a potential “bubble” scenario would operate within Edmonton, and we are confident that we can follow the NHL’s great example in creating a safe environment for teams to compete.”

In a separate announcement Thursday, the IIHF cancelled all other tournaments on its schedule through to the end of January. This includes Olympic qualifying competitions, lower-divisions under-20 tournaments and all the women’s under-18 world championships.

The IIHF also announced Thursday that it will undergo a review of the circumstances surrounding the 2021 men’s world championships, which are currently scheduled to be hosted by Minsk, Belarus, and Riga, Latvia next summer. Due to the political unrest in Belarus, the Latvian government had previously requested Minsk be removed from co-hosting duties.

“This is the first time that a government of a host nation has indicated its unwillingness to remain a tournament co-host with another host nation due to political reasons,” Fasel said in a statement. “The IIHF is deeply concerned over the recent events unfolding in Minsk, but as a sports federation, the IIHF is not a political entity and cannot move a tournament for political reasons.

“However, the IIHF is responsible for ensuring that each tournament host can guarantee the health and safety of the players, officials, and spectators.”

The IIHF will form an “Expert Group” to review every aspect of the upcoming tournament, including from financial, medical, event, marketing, sport, legal and administrative perspectives. The findings from the investigation will be presented in November at the next IIHF Council meeting.