The optics are absolutely abysmal.
Go, men, go.
No, women, no.
But only hours after the shocking and gut-wrenching decision of the Nova Scotia government to pull the plug on the IIHF Women’s World Hockey Championship Wednesday, the perception may be about to improve immeasurably.
The city that became Hub City No. 1 to play host to 81 games of the NHL’s Stanley Cup playoffs from start to finish, is offering to bail out the IIHF and Hockey Canada again. Edmonton is offering the opportunity for the women’s worlds end up in the same city and venue that rescued last year’s IIHF world juniors with a second follow-up highly acclaimed bubble hockey hosting.
The city that gave the Canadian women’s team a ballistic send-off to the last Olympic Winter Games with a crowd of 17,468 for a 2-1 overtime win against the USA, is offering to be the emergency host with the most.
“The IIHF has some big decisions. Hockey Canada has some big decisions. But, hey, they should know Edmonton is open. They know the track record,” Edmonton Oilers chairman and IIHF Vice President Bob Nicholson told me Thursday morning.
“Our history has been real good. They trust us and know us in Edmonton,” added Nicholson, the former longtime head of Hockey Canada.
The ballistic hosting of the both Stanley Cup and world junior events here inspired the IIHF to relocate the men’s world championships from cancelation in Belarus to Riga, Latvia and to relocate the men’s U-18 worlds from Plymouth, Michigan to Frisco and Plano, Texas.
So that’s three-for-three for saving men’s events.
But the IIHF was forced to cancel the women’s U-18 in Sweden. And Wednesday Nova Scotia’s provincial government decided to cancel the women’s world’s just moments before the final on-ice session of Team Canada’s selection camp 24 hours before the teams were scheduled to fly to Halifax and Truro.
That made it zero-for-two for the world’s women’s events. And remember, last year’s women’s world championship in Halifax was not held due to COVID-19.
The cancellation of the women’s worlds was a shocking blow to the Canadian women who were about to take to the ice in Halifax for their final evaluation camp session prior to entering the bubble with teams from the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Japan, Russia, Switzerland and the United States for the tournament scheduled to run from May 6-16.
“At five o’clock this morning, this was a go. At 7:30, it was not,” said Hockey Canada president Tom Renney on a video conference call Wednesday.
The IIHF confirmed it will work with Hockey Canada to find a way.
“This is very disappointing,” said IIHF president Rene Fasel in a statement.
“We strongly believe that we had the adequate safety measures in place to protect players, officials, spectators and all residents in Halifax and Truro, based on the IIHF and Hockey Canada’s experiences from hosting the IIHF world junior championship in Edmonton,” he added.
“It’s not cancelled. It’s postponed. With next year a Winter Olympics year, this championship is too important not to be played,” said Nicholson.
Edmonton saved the IIHF from being forced to cancel the men’s world junior without fans in Rogers Place in Edmonton in exchange for a return of the event for the originally organized Edmonton-Red Deer tournament this coming holiday season. The same deal might be made for a hosting of the Women’s World here in a couple of years.
“If they could figure out a way to do it in the next few weeks it would probably be best for the girls,” admitted Nicholson.
“Some people might think that’s easy but it’s really tough because of protocols, travel and all of that. And budgeting would be a real challenge because you’d have to budget with fans and without fans.
“The alternative would be to delay it and have it August-September next year.
“Edmonton couldn’t do it now just because of the Oilers, playoffs and everything else. But if Hockey Canada would like us to do it we would certainly help them out with August-September dates.”
There’s a lot that would likely be involved from both the IIHF and Hockey Canada perspectives.
“Are there other places Hockey Canada feels they have to take this event? There might be a thought there that they can’t do everything in Edmonton.
“And that’s even if the IIHF would want to have it somewhere else. The other nations might just rather do it over in Europe. That’s where most of the countries are.
“There’s going to be a call next week to look at all the options. But they should know that Edmonton is open for them.”
Considering what they’ve put women’s hockey through lately, I think they owe it to them to not only to save the day but to make it extra special in Edmonton’s Ice District.