Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

Less than three weeks before the world championships are set to open in Canada, the United States women’s national hockey team has a new coach.

Assistant coach Joel Johnson will be taking over for Bob Corkum, who has abruptly stepped down, citing COVID-19 protocol concerns.

“I was not comfortable with the protocols,” Corkum wrote in a text sent to The Associated Press on Saturday. 

While he didn’t specify his concerns, Corkum added, “It was a difficult decision to make, but one that I am at peace with. The team will not miss a beat. They are in great hands.”

Corkum has previously supported a business announcing that its employees will not wear masks, writing: “We need more educated citizens like this small business owner.”

Additionally, he has questioned some of Canada’s coronavirus pandemic support plans via his LinkedIn account, commenting on Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s post and calling them “propaganda.”

Kirsten Whelan provided more insight on Twitter, reporting that Corkum’s issue wasn’t due to him being uncomfortable but rather opposing recently-released stringent tournament protocols.

Reportedly, Corkum came to the decision on Friday while in Maine with his players prior to the start of training camp. Competition is set to begin on May 6 in Nova Scotia. 

A 12-year NHL veteran, Corkum’s first international tournament as head coach with the U.S. Women’s National Team was the 2018 Four Nations Cup. The U.S. women went undefeated en route to its fourth straight tournament title. 

Most recently, Corkum helped lead the team to its fifth consecutive gold medal at the IIHF Women’s World Championship in 2019. 

“Bob put his heart and and soul into continuing to build on the legacy of our women’s national team program over the past three seasons, and we’re grateful for all he did,” USA Hockey’s director of women’s national team programs Katie Million said, per The Associated Press. “While he’s stepping away, he’ll always be a big part of the USA Hockey family and we’ll certainly miss him.”