March 1st, 2024

Russia and Belarus barred from ice hockey world championships for 1 more year through 2025 season

By The Associated Press on February 12, 2024.

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting on economic issues via videoconference at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Monday, Feb. 12, 2024. (Alexander Kazakov, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

ZURICH (AP) – Russia and Belarus will be excluded from the ice hockey world championships for another year through the 2024-25 season, the sport’s governing body said Monday, citing security risks during the military invasion of Ukraine.

The International Ice Hockey Federation said “it is not yet safe to reincorporate the Russian and Belarusian teams back into IIHF competitions.”

The latest renewal of the ban will extend the countries’ exclusions to more than three years, with “security concerns for players, competition staff and fans” previously given as reasons.

“This decision will also apply to the Belarusian team regarding the Final Olympic Qualification Round” scheduled for August, the IIHF said.

The next Winter Olympics is due to open Feb. 6, 2026 in northern Italy and hockey will be played in Milan with NHL players involved for the first time since 2014 in Sochi, Russia.

The IIHF set a deadline of May next year for its ruling council to decide if Russia and Belarus can return in time for the Olympics.

At the NHL All-Star Weekend this month in Toronto, Russian Nikita Kucherov of the Tampa Bay Lightning was asked if his country was going to be a part of the Olympics.

“I want to go – I think everybody wants to go, and it definitely means a lot for the country,” Kucherov said. “Hopefully, my fingers crossed, that we’re going to be in the Olympics – Team Russia is going to be in the Olympics. And it’s going to be a real best versus best because when Team Russia is not out there, it’s not the same.”

The Russian team took gold at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics and silver in 2022 in Beijing.

Ice hockey is a favorite sport played by both Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.

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Winter Olympics news: https://apnews.com/hub/winter-olympics and more AP sports: https://apnews.com/sports

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