Russia, Belarus barred from next season’s ice hockey worlds

ZURICH — Russia and Belarus teams were excluded by the International Ice Hockey Federation on Wednesday from all its world championships next season, including the women’s event in the United States.

The IIHF cited security concerns for players, competition staff and fans — because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — to extend the exclusion that will stretch beyond two years when the 2023-24 season is over.

“It is too soon,” IIHF president Luc Tardif said about letting Russia return. “Too many risks.”

The women’s worlds is set to be played in U.S. cities in March or April next year and the men’s event in the Czech Republic is scheduled next May.

Ice hockey is a favorite sport played by both Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.

The Russian Hockey Federation dismissed the IIHF’s security concerns as a “contrived reason” to keep its teams out of competition.

“It is a decision which is neither constructive, nor beneficial for world hockey,” the federation said in a statement.

The IIHF has followed guidance given by the International Olympic Committee within days of Russia starting the war in February last year to remove Russian teams from international competitions and to find new hosts for events the country was to stage.

However, the IOC is now pushing Olympic sports governing bodies to find ways to include Russian and Belarusian athletes as neutrals in qualifying events for the 2024 Paris Games. The international governing bodies for judo and fencing have said this year that they are prepared to readmit Russian and Belarusian athletes.

The IOC executive board is due to discuss the Russian issue at a meeting next Tuesday in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Tardif, speaking after a decision by the ruling council he chairs, said the IIHF must decide in the next year if Russia and Belarus can take part in the 2026 Milan-Cortina d’Ampezzo Winter Games.

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