The International Ice Hockey Federation And The NHL Might Have A Belarus Problem

Demonstrations, detentions after a recent election are a problem.  

If you had Belarus in an office pool as the place you would not want to hold an international sports event, you have won a pot of money. Latvia and Belarus are scheduled to jointly hold the 2021 International Ice Hockey Federation World Championship between May 21st and June 6th. However, there could be a major problem if COVID-19 is not contained by that point and treatments along with a vaccine don’t work. There was no 2020 IIHF championship because of COVID-19. The National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman, the NHL ownership group and the National Hockey League Players Association are probably keeping a very close eye on the 2021 IIHF Championship because virtually all of Canada’s roster is stocked with NHL players. Most of the American roster consists of NHL players. The Russian, the Czech Republic, the Swedish and Finnish teams have NHL players. There is the COVID-19 issue but there is also another major concern. The growing unrest and demonstrations in Belarus after the recent election.

The International Ice Hockey Federation claims it is apolitical and does not get involved with a country’s politics. But Latvia is also a co-host of the 2021 event and its prime minister does not see a way that the IIHF can proceed with Belarus being in turmoil. Latvian Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš does not want to organize an international hockey tournament with Belarus and has told that to the IIHF. So far, his complaint has fallen on deaf ears. The Latvia Prime Minister according to a Latvian TV station said, “I think that the developments in Belarus are changing the situation. Currently, I do not see how our country can organize the Championship together with Belarus. I have already asked the Ministry of Education and Science, which is responsible for sports to communicate with the IIHF in order to find a solution and understand how we should act.” Kariņš complaint has been ignored.

(Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)