(Derek Leung/Getty Images)

USA Hockey has called on the International Ice Hockey Federation to reconsider its decision to cancel the U18 Women’s World Championship.

The event was scheduled to take place in Sweden in January before the IIHF canceled all events next month based on a recommendation from the organization’s medical committee regarding COVID-19. That decision received swift backlash, with many pointing out it was the second year in a row that the IIHF had canceled the tournament. Meanwhile, Men’s World Juniors is taking place and has only had games cancelled due to COVID-19 issues.

“I believe the IIHF is trying to do what they can to make sure that if they run events they are as safe as possible for every participant,” USA Hockey executive director Pat Kelleher said Monday. “However, we have requested they look at the U-18s specifically and see what they can do to at least postpone it and explore options with the countries that are involved with that event.”

Kelleher went on to call it “a critical event for the future of women’s hockey” while also recognizing that the IIHF is currently facing what he calls “challenging situations all the way around.”

“We certainly hope there’s ways for people to continue to look for solutions to some of these issues down the road,” he said.

In a statement, IIHF president Luc Tardif said the cancellations are “not a gender issue.”

“I would ask in turn how is it fair to postpone all the time the top divisions and always to simply cancel the lower divisions? These cancellations have affected six tournaments, not just one, including two men’s U20 events that critics seem to conveniently forget,” Tardif said, adding that there is an economic incentive to hosting the men’s World Juniors tournament.

“People misunderstand that this is because we favour men’s hockey over women’s, which is completely false,” he continued. The revenue generated from Men’s World Championships and World Juniors, Tardif said, helps to support the other IIHF World Championship events.

He added that rescheduling the event is a possibility, but Sweden would have to give up its hosting rights and a new host would need to emerge.

“We look forward to having constructive discussions with them to see whether there might be such a possibility,” Tardif said. “But first we need a host that is willing to take this on, and dates that work for all teams.”

The Ontario Women’s Hockey Association has expressed interest in hosting the event. Hockey Canada president Tom Renney told The Toronto Star that the organization had also asked the IIHF to consider postponement rather than cancellation.