Day: January 11, 2024

Israel barred from International Ice Hockey Federation events over security concerns

Source: The Times of Israel

The International Ice Hockey Federation has barred Israel from competing in its world championship events, citing security concerns, in a move Israel has vowed to dispute, decrying an “antisemitic” and “dangerous” decision.

The IIHF said in a statement issued Wednesday that its ruling council “has decided to restrict the Israeli National Team from participating in IIHF Championships until the safety and well-being of all participants (including Israeli participants) can be assured.”

The Israeli men’s national team was due to play a Division II-A world championship tournament in Serbia in April against teams including Australia and the United Arab Emirates. The Israel women’s national team was scheduled for a Division III-B world championship event in Estonia in March against opponents including Bosnia-Herzegovina and Indonesia.

The Israeli Ice Hockey Association announced in response that it will file a claim with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) against the international hockey group over its “antisemitic decision to exclude Israel is an unusual and very serious step that does not meet any international sporting standard and stands in complete contradiction to Olympic values.”

The Israeli Ice Hockey Association said that “sources within the International Ice Hockey Federation suggest that the underlying cause of the decision appears to be the alleged capitulation of the Federation’s chairman, Luc Tardif, to political pressures, including influences from Russia.”

The IIHF said it “took this decision after careful consideration and based on a risk assessment, discussions with the participating countries and discussions with the hosts.”

The statement did not say if any other country had objected to playing against Israel and made no mention of the ongoing Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, triggered by the Palestinian terror group’s October 7 massacre in which some 3,000 Hamas-led terrorists breached the border, killing some 1,200 people, most of them civilians slaughtered in their homes and at a music festival. Another 240 people were taken hostage in Gaza.

Israel will remain excluded “for the time being,” the IIHF said.

The Israeli Ice Hockey Association said in its statement that the federation’s decision “provides support for terrorism and the massacre of children and older people who were in their beds, in their homes.”

Yael Arad, Chairman of the Olympic Committee of Israel, said in a statement that together with Gili Lustig, the CEO of the Olympic Committee, she has been involved in a number of conversations with the global hockey federation and “unfortunately, we are witnessing a precedent-setting and dangerous decision with a strong undercurrent of antisemitism, disguised under the pretext of athlete safety.”

“In a personal conversation I had with the president of the International Hockey Federation, I witnessed a disappointing lack of transparency and opacity driven by a hidden agenda that has no place in world sports. The International Olympic Committee is aware of the situation and supports that Israel will not be discriminated [against] in any competition whatsoever. We will not allow this to happen,” said Arad, an Olympic judoka champion.

In its reasoning, the IIHF has previously used similar language around safety and security to support its decision last year to suspend Russia and Belarus from competition following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The IIHF world championships are structured into a series of tiers and Israel’s national teams typically play in lower-division events with sparse crowds and little media exposure.

Slovakia denies plans of playing games against Russia

Finland’s Jani Nyman, right, and Slovakia’s Juraj Pekarčík, left, challenge for the puck during the in IIHF World Junior Championship ice hockey quarter final match between Slovakia and Finland at Froelundaborg in Gothenburg, Sweden, on January 2, 2024.

Source: The Slovakia Spectator

The Russian ice-hockey website wrote on Wednesday that the Slovak national hockey team wants to play a preliminary game, or more, against Russia ahead of the 2024 world championship.

The website didn’t say where this report came from. Instead, it went on to say that Russian Hockey Federation President Vladislav Tretiak supported the idea of ​​Slovakia playing against Russia. He himself had no information about Slovakia’s interest in preliminary games against Russia.

“Is it true the Slovak Hockey Federation wants to see matches between the national teams of Slovakia and Russia?” he asked. “We’ll be happy to host any federation that wants to play with the Russian national team.”

On the same day, Slovakia’s hockey federation denied the information and called it fake news that ‘shocked’ the body.

On the same day, Slovakia’s hockey federation denied the information and called it fake news that ‘shocked’ the body.

We have not held any talks with the Russian Hockey Federation, nor do we have any plans to play preliminary games against the Russian hockey team,” the Slovak federation said in its statement.

Slovakia will play eight preliminary games. None of the games will be against Russia.

Banned Russians

The fake news about the Russia-Slovakia preliminary games also surprised former Russian ice-hockey legend Vyacheslav Fetisov.

“If the Slovak national team plays against us, they will also be suspended,” he told the Russian website.

Russian teams are not allowed to participate in the international hockey federation’s events due to Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Moreover, in November 2022, the International Ice-Hockey Federation sanctioned the Russian Ice Hockey Federation with a reprimand for violating the ethics code, after it failed to prevent signs showing support for promoting the war in Ukraine from appearing in arenas.

Slovakia as “unfriendly country”

Other former Russian players also welcomed the news about Slovakia’s reported interest in the games against Russia.

“I think they understand and realise the quality of our team and want to test their players against strong opponents! For them this is a good test. And for us it’s practice,” said the former coach of Russia’s national team, Vyacheslav Bykov.

But on Wednesday evening, the Russian Hockey Federation said that there would ‘definitely be no matches this season’. It added that ‘the dialogue will continue next season.’

Following the statement, Russian hockey coach Andrei Nazarov said about Slovakia’s refusal to play Russia that ‘Slovakia is now an unfriendly country for us.’

This year, the world championship will take place in the Czech Republic.

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