IIHF bans Russia, Belarus from play; 2023 World Juniors to be moved

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The International Ice Hockey Federation announced it has banned Russian and Belarusian national teams and clubs from participation “in every age category” and in IIHF competitions “until further notice.” They have also taken hosting rights away from Russia for the 2023 World Junior Championship, which was to be played in Novosibirsk and Omsk.

This decision comes a week after Russia began its invasion of Ukraine.

“The IIHF is not a political entity and cannot influence the decisions being taken over the war in Ukraine,” said IIHF President Luc Tardif. “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 for all teams taking part in the IIHF World Championship program.”

Teams, tournaments affected by ban

As per the IIHF’s decision the following teams and competitions are affected:

• 2022 IIHF Continental Cup (4-6 March 2022) – Belarus club team HK Gomel would not participate

• 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship (21 April-01 May 2022): Russia and Belarus men’s U18 teams would not participate

• 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship (13-29 May 2022) – ROC and Belarus men’s national teams would not participate

• 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women’s Word Championship (Dates TBB) – Russia women’s U18 national team would not participate

• 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship (Dates TBD) – Russia men’s U20 national teams would not participate

• 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship (26 August-4 September 2022) – ROC women’s national team would not participate

Federations put pressure on IIHF

Switzerland and Latvia were among the federations that petitioned the IIHF to remove Russia and Belarus and move several tournaments, including the 2023 men’s Worlds, which is scheduled to be held in St. Petersburg, Russia. They had also asked the IIHF to not invite Russia to all upcoming international competitions.

Finnish federation head Harri Nummela said Russia was not welcomed at the 2022 men’s Worlds, which will be hosted by Tampere and Helsinki.

On Monday, the Swedish, Finnish, and Czech federations announce they would not be inviting Russia to the remaining Euro Hockey Tour tournaments, which will include women, men, and juniors.

NHL condemns the invasion

The NHL released a statement on Monday condemning Russia’s actions and suspending relationships with business partners in Russia.

From the NHL:

The National Hockey League condemns Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and urges a peaceful resolution as quickly as possible. Effective immediately, we are suspending our relationships with our business partners in Russia and we are pausing our Russian language social and digital media sites. In addition, we are discontinuing any consideration of Russia as a location for any future competitions involving the NHL.

We also remain concerned about the well-being of the players from Russia, who play in the NHL on behalf of their NHL Clubs, and not on behalf of Russia. We understand they and their families are being placed in an extremely difficult position.

Hasek, Gretzky express strong opinions

On Friday, Alex Ovechkin, a Moscow native, shared his first comments on the conflict, calling for “no more war” and adding “we have to live in peace and a great world.”

The 36-year-old Ovechkin has expressed support for Russian President Vladimir Putin in the past, including being a part of PutinTeam, a social movement that began in 2017. As one of the country’s high-profile athletes, he has had a good relationship with Putin for a some time.

Dominik Hasek didn’t mince words in a short Twitter thread in response to Ovechkin’s comments. The Hall of Fame goaltender called the Capitals’ star “chicken s—” and a “liar” and then called on the NHL to suspend the contracts for all Russian players.

“Every athlete represents not only himself and his club, but also his country and its values and actions,” continued Hasek. “That is a fact. If the NHL does not do so, it has indirect co-responsibility for the dead in Ukraine. … I also want to write, that I am very sorry for those Russian athletes, who condemn V. Putin and his Russian aggression in Ukraine. However, at the moment I also consider their exclusion a necessity.”

Wayne Gretzky didn’t go as far as Hasek, but he did say that Russia should be banned from the World Juniors.

“Sports get zeroed in on. If we are going to send hockey players home we should send everybody home. It’s not just hockey players there is a lot of other people here who are making a living,” Gretzky said during TNT’s broadcast of the 2022 Stadium Series. “I think international hockey should say, ‘We’re not gonna let them play in the world junior hockey tournament. I think we got to, as Canadians, take that stance since the games are going to be played in Edmonton.”

The IIHF Council will meet in the near-future to discuss updated formats for the competitions affected by the ban. As far as a new host for the 2023 World Juniors, the IIHF said it will meet “in the coming months” to determine a new host.

Follow NBC News for up-to-date coverage of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.