IIHF

Seven hockey players suspended in Belarus match-fixing case

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ZURICH — Seven ice hockey players have been suspended during an investigation into match-fixing in the Belarus league.

The players — five from Belarus and two from Russia — told a domestic investigation they were paid to help arrange the outcome of a game in November, the International Ice Hockey Federation said on Friday.

“During the investigation, each of the players also admitted that they had agreed to exert an unlawful influence on the outcome of the game in exchange for illegal remuneration,” the governing body said in a statement.

The IIHF said its disciplinary board had taken over the case “for further review and sanctioning.”

The case involves Dynamo Molodechno’ losing to Mogilyov 6-5 in a Belarus Extraliga game.

The players have been suspended from taking part in any competition organized by the IIHF or its member federations.

U.S., Canada men, women in same groups for 2022 Olympics

We don’t know if the NHL and NHLPA will agree to participate in the 2022 Olympics, but we do know the groups that will make up the tournament.

The U.S. and Canada will share a group in both the men’s and women’s tournaments after the IIHF released the latest world rankings and tournament seedings. The seedings and groups are based off the world rankings, which remain the same from 2019 due to the cancelation of the 2020 World Championship.

Group A: Canada (1), USA (6), Germany (7), China (12)
Group B: Russia (2), Czech Republic (5), Switzerland (8), Qualifier 3 (11)
Group C: Finland (3), Sweden (4), Qualifier 1 (9), Qualifier 2 (10)

The final three qualifier spots (winner from each group) are still scheduled to be decided in late August.

Group D: Slovakia (host), Belarus, Austria, Poland
Group E: Latvia (host), France, Italy, Hungary
Group F: Norway (host), Denmark, Korea, Slovenia

This is the first time since the 2010 Olympics that the U.S. and Canada will share a group in the men’s tournament.

As far as NHL participating in 2022, there’s been little progress on that end.

“At this point in time, we continue to believe that the negatives outweigh the positives,” NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said in February.

Said NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr: “I can’t figure out why anybody would not want to go and take advantage of this opportunity because it doesn’t come around every day.”

The 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics were the first without NHL participating since 1994.

On the women’s side, with only two international tournaments held this year, the rankings saw little change. The U.S. and Canada remain the top two teams in the world and will meet in Group A as the Americans try to repeat as gold medal winners.

Group A: USA (1), Canada (2), Finland (3), Russia (4), Switzerland (5)
Group B: Japan (6), Qualifier 1 (7), Qualifier 2 (8), Qualifier 3 (9), China (10)

The three qualifier places will be determined in February 2021 and the format will be decided when all participating teams have entered. Czech Republic, Germany and Sweden all have the right to host a qualification group.

MORE:
IOC postpones 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics
Gretzky: NHL players in Olympics ‘much better for everyone’

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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.

Hockey leagues following NHL’s lead

Empty stands before fans enter the arena
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In the aftermath of the announcement that the National Hockey League will pause the 2019-20 regular season, the AHL and ECHL have issued similar statements.

In addition, the Canadian Hockey League and its three regional leagues, the Ontario Hockey League, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, and Western Hockey League, announced that the balance of the 2019-20 season and all hockey activity shall be paused immediately until further notice.

According to the IIHF, the 2020 Ice Hockey World Championship has not been cancelled as of yet. The event is not slated to start until early May and a decision is not needed immediately.

The NWHL also announced that the 2020 Isobel Cup Final between the Boston Pride and Minnesota Whitecaps has been postponed.

The entire sports community is in uncharted waters and as for what is next, it’s anyone’s guess.

 

Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.

Hockey events continue to be canceled due to coronavirus, NHL watching situation

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Hockey events aren’t immune to being canceled in reaction to the coronavirus. The NHL and other hockey organizations continue to react to a situation that hasn’t been easy to contain.

The IIHF announced that the women’s world championships has been canceled, via the AP. That event was scheduled to take place on March 31. The IIHF alone has canceled six tournaments that were originally planned to happen in March or April.

People have discussed the possibility of sports events — hockey included — taking place in front of empty arenas. As you can see in this CNBC interview with Florida Panthers owner Vincent Viola (also embedded above), the league is resisting such a decision for the time being. Viola indicates that the preference would be to postpone/delay competition, instead.

But this is an ongoing situation, as Gary Bettman mentioned earlier this week.

“We’re aware of what’s happening in other places in the world, and we understand that things may evolve or change, and we also understand that we’re going to have to react to it in a professional and timely and sensible basis,” Bettman said, via NHL.com. “But I don’t think, as we sit here today, people should get too far ahead of themselves in terms of how they either react to this or report this. Let’s see how it all evolves.”

NHL taking certain measures to avoid spread of coronavirus

Recent developments aim to limit certain interactions.

Keeping media out of sweaty locker rooms? Check.

The AP also notes that the NHL recommends that players limit their interactions with fans. One suggestion, also relayed to the NBA, is to lean toward “fist-bumps instead of high-fives.”

(Maybe keep your hockey gloves on?)

As much as the league hopes to avoid overreactions, one also hopes that any risks are as calculated as possible. With that in mind, this bit from the AP seems a bit troubling:

The Ottawa Senators’ road game against the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night remains on schedule despite a recommendation to cancel large gatherings in the county where the arena is located.

Ultimately, this might just be the beginning of the coronavirus inspiring hockey events to be canceled.

MORE ON THE RIPPLE EFFECTS OF THE CORONAVIRUS FOR HOCKEY EVENTS

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

NHL keeping close eye on coronavirus, limiting employee travel

BOCA RATON, Fla. — The NHL is not allowing its employees to make work-related trips outside of North America in response to the global fears over the coronavirus, and if any of those employees go on their own to a country where the virus has been found they will be quarantined before being able to return to work.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said Wednesday the league has told its 31 teams they were free to adopt a similar policy, though he stopped short of saying it would be a mandate as concerns of the virus continue to grow.

”We barred all travel outside of North America for business purposes,” Bettman said on the final day of general managers’ meetings. ”People at a personal level or people in their households are still free to do what they want to do. If you go to a place that’s on the list of countries that have an issue or while you’re there the country comes on the list, then when you come back we want you quarantined, out of the office for two weeks until we can see if symptoms develop.”

That even applies to those who work for the NHL’s central scouting service: Scouts who are in Europe are staying in Europe, and if they return to North America they will be quarantined. Bettman said the NHL is in regular communication with the other three major North American sports leagues, as well as health experts in both the U.S. and Canada.

Through Wednesday, there have been more than 94,000 confirmed cases of people contracting the virus worldwide, with more than 3,200 deaths.

”We’re constantly updating the clubs based on what we’re hearing from our experts and the CDC and Canada’s equivalent,” Bettman said. ”It’s day by day. We’re going to continue to monitor things. It’s business as usual. We’re going to keep everybody completely informed.”

The NHL hasn’t gone as far as the NBA did earlier this week. The NBA sent a memo to teams on Sunday suggesting that players limit high-fives with fans and be hesitant to touch markers and items in autograph-seeking situations. Some NBA players have said they are stopping autographs altogether for the time being, and others are carrying their own markers to group-signing scrums.

”When it comes to that level of detail, leagues will do what they think are appropriate and necessary under the circumstances,” Bettman said ”Our clubs at the medical level, the training level and the player level are pretty informed as to what is wise and prudent conduct under the circumstances.”

The International Ice Hockey Federation said this weekit has canceled six different tournaments – events that were to take place in March and April in Estonia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Luxembourg, Poland and Spain. Pro leagues in Switzerland and China have also been affected, some games called off, others played without fans.

The NHL isn’t at that point yet with the playoffs coming up next month.

”We’re aware of and focused on all possibilities,” Bettman said. ”But at this point it would be premature to pick any one of the possibilities, especially because it may or may not become necessary in North America.”

DAVID AYRES

Bettman said he found it ”intriguing” when David Ayres, a 42-year-old Zamboni driver, took the ice as the emergency backup goaltender for the Carolina Hurricanes when they faced the Toronto Maple Leafs last month.

Ayres shook off a shaky start, allowing goals on his first two shots, and became the first emergency goalie in NHL history to be credited with a victory.

”What was, to me, more remarkable was how he settled down and how Carolina played the third period. … For those of you old enough to remember, it was a real Walter Mitty moment,” Bettman said.

PUCK AND PLAYER TRACKING

Bettman insisted that the new puck to be used in the NHL’s new player and puck tracking plans is not going to change the way the game is played, and that the puck will perform exactly as the current puck does.

”The puck has been extensively tested, it’s been extensively used and anybody suggesting that somehow that could be an issue, it’s pure speculation, misguided speculation,” Bettman said.