Ice hockey-Women's world championship cancelled over coronavirus outbreak

By Steve Keating

(Adds details and quotes)

By Steve Keating

March 7 (Reuters) - The women's world ice hockey championship set for this month in Halifax and Truro, Nova Scotia, has been cancelled over concerns about the coronavirus outbreak, the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) said on Saturday.

"Due to the ongoing spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), the IIHF Council has agreed today to cancel the 2020 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship, following a recommendation by public health experts," the IIHF said in a statement posted on Twitter.

"Subject to formal approval by the IIHF Congress, the 2020 host cities Halifax and Truro will instead host the 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship."

The 10-team tournament featuring hosts Canada, United States, Japan, Switzerland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Finland, Denmark, Russia and Germany, had been scheduled to run from March 31 to April 10.

It is the second time the women's event has been cancelled due to a global epidemic.

The 2003 championship in Beijing was called off due to the SARS outbreak in China.

Canada had 45 confirmed cases on Friday of the coronavirus which emerged in China and has spread to more than 90 nations, killing more than 3,400 people and infecting more than 100,000 worldwide.

The cancellation follows the postponement on Monday of six other ice hockey world championship tournaments due to the virus.

The IIHF said the decision was made following an extra-ordinary meeting by the IIHF Council on Saturday.

"It is with great regret that we must take this action,” said IIHF President Rene Fasel. “It was not an easy decision to make, as we were greatly looking forward to hosting this tournament in Canada.

"Nevertheless, the decision has been made due to safety concerns for the well-being of players, officials, and spectators.

"Ultimately the IIHF Council feels that there has not been enough of an improvement to the coronavirus situation to allow us to safely host a 10-team international tournament within this time frame.”

Canada is hosting two other world championships in March, the figure skating worlds in Montreal (March 16-22) and the women's world curling championships in Prince George, B.C. (March 14-22) and both are going ahead as planned.

The cancellation of the ice hockey world championship adds to a growing list of events being suspended in Canada.

Organizers of Collision, a major technology conference scheduled for June in Toronto and expected to draw around 30,000 attendees, said on Friday it would be conducted only by teleconference or online this year.

The men’s ice hockey worlds scheduled for May 8-24 in Switzerland remain on schedule but the IIHF is expected to make a decision on that tournament later next week.

In an effort to contain the virus Switzerland has banned public and private gatherings with more than 1,000 people, prompting the cancellation of several events including the annual Engadin ski marathon, one of the world’s largest cross-country skiing events with around 14,000 participants, and the Geneva Auto Show. (Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto; additional reporting by Gene Cherry; Editing by Clare Fallon)