IIHF President Luc Tardif expressed hope the event could be continued at a later date ©IIHF

The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Junior Championship has been cancelled due to the spread of COVID-19 at the event in Edmonton and Red Deer in Canada.

The IIHF Council said the tournament’s COVID-19 medical group and IIHF Medical Committee had come to the decision to ensure the health and safety of participants.

A decision was reached following a positive case on the Russian team.

This would have led to the Russian team forfeiting their Group B match against Slovakia, which would be the third cancelled match of the event.

The United States were forced to forfeit their tie with Switzerland in the same group, while Finland were awarded a win over the Czech Republic in Group A after positive cases.

The IIHF said that three cancelled matches in two days had impacted the sporting integrity of the event.

"Together with the teams, we came into this event with full confidence in the COVID-19 protocols put in place by the IIHF, the Local Organising Committee, Alberta Health, Alberta Health Services and the Public Health Agency of Canada," said Luc Tardif, IIHF President.

"The ongoing spread of COVID-19 and the Omicron variant forced us to readjust our protocols almost immediately upon arrival to attempt to stay ahead of any potential spread.

"This included daily testing and the team quarantine requirement when positive cases were confirmed.

“We owed it to the participating teams to do our best to create the conditions necessary for this event to work.

"Unfortunately, this was not enough.

"We now have to take some time and focus on getting all players and team staff back home safely.

"I don't want and the Organising Committee doesn't want to give up on doing this event if it is possible. 

"So we're going to take the next month to think about it and maybe come up with a good surprise. 

"I think we owe that to the young players to give them this important competition."

The men’s under-20 event had begun on December 26, with 10 teams participating.

The IIHF has reportedly expressed hope that the event could be resumed at a later date in the calendar.

Hockey Canada President Scott Smith and chief executive Tom Renney said the organisation understood the decision to bring the tournament to an end amid the positive COVID-19 cases.

"Hockey Canada has worked tirelessly since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure it would be equipped to host world-class, international events in a safe and healthy environment," a joint statement read.

"Despite our best efforts, and continually adapting and strengthening protocols, we have unfortunately fallen short of our goal of completing the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship and handing out medals on January 5 due to the challenges of the current COVID-19 landscape.

"Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have always made the health and safety of event participants and the community at large a priority, and given the news that we have encountered positive cases within the World Juniors environment, we understand and support the decision to cancel the remainder of the event.

"Although we know this is the right decision, we sympathise with all participants who have earned the opportunity to represent their countries on the world stage and that will not be able to realise that dream in its entirety."

The tournament saw limits on spectators amid COVID-19 concerns, with fans also required to be fully vaccinated to attend.

The 2021 event took place exclusively at Rogers Place in Edmonton last year in a bubble system without spectators.

The IIHF has added it hopes to rearrange the 2022 Women’s Under-18 World Championships at a later date, which was one of six events planned in January to be cancelled earlier this month.