The IIHF has canceled the women's U18 worlds for the second-straight year.

The sports world is facing numerous challenges around the spread of the COVID-19 Omicron variant, leading to cancellations, postponements, and players withdrawing from tournaments. One particular cancellation Friday drew a lot of fire; that would be the International Ice Hockey Federation’s decision to cancel all of their tournaments starting in January, most notably including the women’s U18 world championships in Sweden (but also lower levels of that event, and lower levels of the men’s U20 world championships), but proceed with the men’s U20 world championships (which officially begin on Dec. 26 in Edmonton and Red Deer, Alberta, Canada). And that release offered a very suspect rationale for not rescheduling the women’s event, saying “Due to league commitments within Sweden during possible postponement dates, it was determined that it will not be possible to move the women’s U18s to a later date.”

That will mark the second-straight year where the men’s world juniors event over the holidays has gone ahead while the women’s has been canceled. The full women’s world championships were also canceled in 2020, postponed indefinitely last April, and finally made up last August. By contrast, the men’s U18 world championships (less prominent than the men’s U20 ones) were canceled in 2020, but held on schedule last April. And the canceling of this top women’s world juniors event while the top men’s world juniors event proceeds led to many athletes, media, and fans blasting the IIHF.

The IIHF wound up looking worse still from their back-to-back tweets, one announcing the axing of the women’s event (and the lower-division men’s and women’s events) and the next trying to promote their coverage of the men’s world juniors on Clubhouse:

Yeah, that second tweet did not go over well:

There are two different, but linked, issues here. One is proceeding with the men’s world juniors despite the Omicron spread, and there are arguments for and against that, with the for case involving that the teams are already there (and, more cynically, that this tournament makes the IIHF a lot of money) and the against case arguing against proceeding at all given how this disease is spreading (and with a plan to still have fans in the buildings, albeit currently at 50 percent capacity).  But maybe the bigger issue still is how that stands in contrast to the women’s event just being canceled, without any real justification for not rescheduling it (“league commitments” is not a compelling argument, and certainly not one the IIHF ever pays attention to on the men’s side).

If the IIHF had gone ahead with the men’s world juniors and postponed the women’s, that might have been somewhat defensible. The women’s event wasn’t scheduled to start until January 8, so teams haven’t yet travelled for it. Pushing it a month or two later when there are hopefully less health risks would probably have been largely accepted. But just tossing off a second-straight cancellation with no justification for the marquee women’s world juniors while allowing the marquee men’s world juniors to proceed for the second-straight year is an awful look for an organization overseeing both men’s and women’s hockey, and it’s understandable why it took the criticism it has.

[IIHF]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz is a staff writer for Awful Announcing and The Comeback. He previously worked at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.