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IIHF suspends Russia from World Juniors in response to Ukraine invasion

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The International Ice Hockey Federation has suspended all Russian national teams from competition until “further notice,” including the rescheduled 2022 World Juniors set for Alberta this August.

The decision came Monday following a meeting of the IIHF’s council.

“The IIHF is not a political entity and cannot influence the decisions being taken over the war in Ukraine,” IIHF President Luc Tardif said in a statement posted online.

“We nevertheless have a duty of care to all of our members and participants and must therefore do all we can to ensure that we are able to operate our events in a safe environment.”

The junior tournament in Edmonton and Red Deer was called off Dec. 30 after four days because of a COVID-19 outbreak.

The IIHF rescheduled the event for August in Alberta, though details have yet to be released.

Team Russia was based in Red Deer during the first attempt at the tournament last December, but had to forfeit its third game due to positive COVID-19 tests.

After the tournament was cancelled, members of the team had to be removed from the flight home following an onboard disturbance that passengers told CTV News involved coaches and players drinking, vaping, smoking and ignoring cabin crew instructions.

Russia is typically among the favourites to win the world junior hockey championship, having won a medal at nine of the prior 11 tournaments.

The country is also slated to host the 2023 World Juniors starting on Dec. 26, 2022.

The IIHF says it will “initiate discussions in the coming months to find a new host for the event.”

Any changes to tournament seeding and promotion or relegation from Division I will be announced in the coming days.

The IIHF sanctions also apply to Belarus, a Russian political ally, who also won the Division I under-20 tournament and were expected to be promoted to the World Juniors proper for the 2023 tournament.

Team Russia also appears to be barred from the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup, an international under-18 tournament not sanctioned by the IIHF and to be held in Edmonton immediately prior to the World Juniors this August. 

Hockey Canada issued a statement in support of the IIHF's suspension of Russia and Belarus, adding it will take a similar position. 

"Hockey Canada has also made the decision not to allow their [Russia and Belarus] participation in events held in Canada that do not fall under the IIHF's jurisdiction." 

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