Russia and Belarus won’t be allowed to compete in International Ice Hockey Federation tournaments as long as the war in Ukraine continues, the group’s president said Sunday.
With both nations already barred from competing in IIHF events through 2024, its president, Luc Tardif, said a decision on the two countries' eligibility in 2025 will be made in March.
“I hope Russia and Belarus will come back as soon as possible, because it will mean the war is over,” Tardif said during a news conference held on the final day of the women’s world hockey championships being held in the Toronto suburbs.
“It’s a question of security for fans, our teams. Anyway, no visa, cannot travel,” Tardif added. “And nobody knows how long it’s going to take.”
Russian men’s and women’s hockey players last competed under the Russian Olympic Committee banner at the 2022 Beijing Games, which concluded shortly before Russia invaded Ukraine. That led to the IIHF barring Russia and ally Belarus from competition, and also having Finland and Latvia host the men's world championships being held next month, after the event was initially awarded to St. Petersburg, Russia.
Should the IIHF extend its ban in March, the decision would effect Belarus’ eligibility to compete in the 2026 Milan-Cortina Olympics because that country's teams would be unable to play in Olympic qualifying tournaments in 2025. Russia’s men’s and women’s teams have maintained their rankings while not being allowed to compete.
The International Olympic Committee is leaning toward having Russian and Belarus athletes compete in next year's Paris Summer Games. Tardif said the IIHF isn’t following the IOC’s advice because hockey is a team sport. Another issue is security concerns after the IIHF last month cited a risk assessment study it conducted in determining it is not safe to allow Russia and Belarus to compete.
The Russian Hockey Federation dismissed the IIHF’s security concerns as a “contrived reason” to keep its teams out of competition.
“I understand that sometimes there is a politic approach,” Tardif said Sunday. “As a human being, I’ve got my own understanding of the situation. But with my IIHF cap, I have to take the decision following our executive and to protect our competition.”
In other news, USA Hockey announced it has selected Utica, New York, as host for next year’s women’s world championships, tentatively scheduled to run from April 4-14. That would mark the fifth time the United States has hosted the tournament and first since 2017, when it was held in Plymouth, Michigan.
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