2 U.S. Hockey Players May Be Forced From World Championship Due to Canada Quarantine Rules

Two players on the U.S. team will likely have to pull out of the world junior hockey championships, in accordance with Canada's federal quarantine rules, after testing positive for COVID-19.

This year, the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) tournament is being played at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta and WP Centrium in Red Deer, Alberta. The preliminary round kicked off on Sunday.

While the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently updated their guidance and shortened isolation times for COVID-positive individuals to five days if asymptomatic, Canada's health regulations continue to require that infected people self-isolate for 10 days.

Because the tournament will only go until January 5—eight days after Tuesday's positive tests—the two American players who have tested positive will be unable to play in any of the tournament's games.

The entire team was also forced to forfeit their Tuesday afternoon game against Switzerland. The game will be recorded as a 1-0 win for the Swiss, per IIHF's rules for the event.

U.S. Junior Hockey World Championships COVID Players
The U.S. junior hockey team was forced to forfeit their game against Switzerland on Tuesday due to two players testing positive for COVID-19. Above, Trevor Zegras #9, Alex Turcotte #15 and Drew Helleson #2 of the United States celebrate a goal against Canada during the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship gold medal game at Rogers Place on January 5, 2021, in Edmonton, Canada. Codie McLachlan/Stringer

"We're extremely disappointed, especially for our players," U.S. general manager John Vanbiesbrouck said in a statement. "We're operating in an ever-changing landscape and that's very challenging."

"We've followed the tournament protocol from the outset and will continue to do everything we can to ensure our players have the opportunity to compete at the World Junior Championship," he added.

There is also concern that the U.S. team—the defending gold medalists—will be unable to play in Wednesday's scheduled game against Sweden.

"The team's quarantine status will be evaluated later to determine whether it will be able to compete in its next preliminary round game," IIHF said in a Tuesday statement.

The next scheduled game would be against Russia on Friday.

On the first day of the tournament, the Americans played Slovakia, winning 3-2.

The U.S. won gold at last year's championships in Edmonton, Canada after failing to medal in 2020. The U.S. has won gold five times in the history of the world juniors but has never won back-to-back titles.

The hockey world has taken extra precautions amid the surge in COVID-19 cases and the rapid spread of the Omicron variant.

Last week, the National Hockey League (NHL) paused its season early ahead of the Christmas break in an effort to weather several COVID outbreaks.

The 10 teams playing in the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship entered a COVID bubble back on December 15 in preparation for the tournament.

"Bubble life means that players, coaches, officials and other staff in the bubble cannot leave the secure zone that includes the hotel, the arena and the practice rink that are in proximity to each other, in many cases without the need to leave the building," the IIHF said in a December 14 statement.

New provincial restrictions in Alberta have also put a new capacity limit for the tournament. Large venues that seat more than 1,000 people, including sports arenas, will be capped at half capacity.

In a statement released last week, Hockey Canada stated that it supports "the direction taken by the Province of Alberta, and we will continue to do our part to maintain the health and safety of all World Juniors participants and the community at large."

Newsweek reached out to IIHF for further comment.