After two positive tests for coronavirus, Hockey Canada has suspended its World Junior training camp.
The International Ice Hockey Federation has canceled dozens of tournaments in the past few months because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, from landmark events like the 2020 World Championship to smaller men’s and women’s hockey tournaments.
One of the few tournaments remaining on the schedule is the Junior World Championship 2021, one of the most important events on the IIHF calendar. This is where the best U-20 male hockey players from around the world compete for their nation and it is a great event for hockey fans and NHL teams, who can see some of their best players in action on one of the biggest stages in the world. world .
To kick off the event, the organizers took a page from the NHL. The tournament was originally planned to be hosted by Edmonton and Red Deer in Alberta, but will now only be in Edmonton in a quarantine bubble, much like the Stanley Cup 2020 Playoffs.
At least, that is the plan.
The Canadian team is currently conducting its Junior World camp in Alberta, trying to reduce the 46 invited players to a final squad of 25. This camp is currently suspended, however, thanks to two positive coronavirus tests, and the entire team is passing for 14 quarantine days.
“Hockey Canada has confirmed that all players, coaches and staff are considered to be close contacts and therefore are subject to the mandatory 14-day quarantine period under Alberta Health Services Order 05-2020,” said Hockey Canada in an announcement. “In accordance with Hockey Canada’s safety protocols, all players, coaches and team members will undergo additional testing before resuming camp activities.”
The team will continue to conduct Zoom meetings and training during the two-week quarantine, which is taking place exactly a month before the tournament’s first games, which will take place on Christmas Day. This gives the team time to complete the quarantine and return to the training ground, make their squad cuts and be ready to play.
The question is what will happen if the Canadian team, or any of the other nine countries participating in the tournament, have positive tests around Christmas or even after the games start.
Canada is not the only team that has had to suspend activities due to positive COVID-19 tests. Sweden canceled a camp and several games planned against Finland in early November. The annual “Finnkampen” is a big part of your list selection process, but two players tested positive after traveling to Malmö for camp. Both players were asymptomatic.
Vancouver Canucks candidates Arvid Costmar and Viktor Persson were part of the Swedish squad for the canceled camp and games.
Another complication is that the situation has changed significantly in Alberta since the Stanley Cup playoffs. Back then, Alberta Prime Minister Jason Kenny was shouting about Edmonton having only 49 active COVID-19 cases. As Team Canada announced its quarantine, however, Alberta declared a state of public health emergency as cases continue to increase across the province. Alberta currently has the third highest number of active COVID-19 cases in Canada, behind Ontario and Quebec.
With more active cases, it becomes more difficult to operate a completely quarantined bubble for the World Junior tournament. There are always points of contact with the outside world, be it the hotel staff, the arena staff or the buffet. During the Stanley Cup qualifiers, the chances were low that any of these touch points would carry the virus and could pass it on to players; with currently much larger cases, the chances have increased.
That said, the NHL had a similar experience before the playoffs. Before traveling to Edmonton, the St. Louis Blues had “multiple” positive COVID-19 tests on its training ground. They canceled training, quarantined players and were able to return together and travel to Edmonton without further problems. The NHL did not have a single positive bubble test during the entire playoffs.
Hopefully the same will be true for the Junior World Cup.