International Ice Hockey Federation bans Russia, Belarus from its competitions 'until further notice'

The International Ice Hockey Federation has banned Belarus and Russia from participation in "every age category and in all IIHF competitions until further notice" and has pulled the 2023 world junior hockey championship from Russia.

The decision was made at a meeting of the IIHF council on Monday, in reaction to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

According to the IIHF, "these actions have been initiated by the Council in order to enable the IIHF to ensure the safety of IIHF Championships and all participating players, officials, and fans."

The world junior tournament was scheduled for Dec. 2022 and Jan. 2023 with Novosibirsk and Omsk as the host cities. Those sites were chosen after the expiration of the two-year suspension for Russia as a result of a World Anti-Doping Agency ruling in 2020. Novosibirsk was constructing a new arena facility specifically for the event. Russia's world junior team will also not be able to participate in the tournament, wherever it's held.

The decision to relocate the event "was taken primarily out of concern for the health and well-being of all participating players, officials, and fans," according to the IIHF.

Among the other repercussions from this decision, Russia and Belarus will not participate in the 2022 IIHF world championships in May. Russia's women's national team also won't play in the either the U18 or women's world championship tournaments.

"The IIHF is not a political entity and cannot influence the decisions being taken over the war in Ukraine," IIHF president Luc Tardif said. "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."

The IIHF did not specify whether the 2023 men's world championships will be hosted by Saint Petersburg, Russia. The event is currently scheduled to be held there in May 2023. The IIHF council has left open the possibility of "further actions impacting future events or other IIHF activities but hopes above all for a swift and peaceful resolution to the war."

The IIHF ruling comes after several international hockey federations put out public statements in support of a ban. Finland wanted both nations "completely excluded" from international play. Switzerland wanted the IIHF to opt out of the 2023 world championships and joined Latvia in pulling out of exhibition games scheduled for Russia. The chairpersons of the hockey federations in Sweden, Finland and Czech Republic also decided not to invite Russia to the upcoming Euro Hockey Tour tournaments, which include men's, women's and junior teams.

Later Monday, both Hockey Canada and USA Hockey released statements saying that they supported the IIHF's decision. Hockey Canada also took the additional step of banning both countries' teams from participating in events in the country that don't fall under the IIHF's jurisdiction.

The IIHF council also took into account the Russian government's breach of the Olympic Truce, which was adopted in December 2021 as a U.N. resolution by United Nations General Assembly. The breach of the Olympic Truce led to a condemnation by the International Olympic Committee's executive board last week.

"We were incredibly shocked to see the images that have come out of Ukraine," Tardif said. "I have been in close contact with members of the Ice Hockey Federation of Ukraine and we hope for all Ukrainians that this conflict can be resolved in a peaceful way and without the need for further violence."