ZURICH — The International Ice Hockey Federation said Friday that it could allow Israel to play in some upcoming world championship tournaments after earlier indicating that Israeli teams would be barred over concerns about security at the events.
The IIHF said Wednesday that “Israel will not participate in IIHF Competitions for the time being,” but in a further statement Friday clarified that this decision so far only applies to a men's under-20 tournament in Bulgaria starting Jan. 22.
No decision has yet been taken concerning the women's and men's world championship tournaments that Israel is due to play in March and April respectively, the IIHF added. Further IIHF council meetings are planned to discuss the issue in February and March before deciding.
“The IIHF completely understands that this is a difficult decision and is being made to prioritize security and safety of all involved parties first,” the IIHF said. “The IIHF hopes to find a way as soon as possible to bring back the Israeli National team in our championship program.”
Israel is no longer on the entry list for under-20 men's event later this month, which also includes Bulgaria, Kyrgyzstan, Mexico, New Zealand and Turkey. Israel had been due to host the competition but it was previously moved to Bulgaria over “already existing safety and security concerns,” the IIHF said.
Neither of the IIHF's statements on Israel this week made any mention of the ongoing Israel-Hamas war in Gaza.
The International Olympic Committee said Friday it had been involved in discussions around Israel's place in ice hockey.
“The IOC is aware of the situation and has discussed the matter with the NOC (National Olympic Committee) of Israel and the IIHF over the past few weeks, and has made its position very clear. Non-discrimination of any kind is part of the Fundamental Principles of the Olympic Charter and the IOC will always uphold these principles,” the IOC said in an emailed statement. “As the competitions in question are not held under the authority of the IOC but under the authority of the IIHF, we refer you to the IIHF for any further questions on this topic.”
The IIHF world championships are structured into a series of tiers and Israel’s national teams typically play in lower-division events.
The Israeli men’s national team is due to play a Division II-A world championship tournament in Serbia in April against teams including Australia and the United Arab Emirates. The Israel women’s national team is scheduled for a Division III-B world championship event in Estonia in March against opponents including Bosnia-Herzegovina and Indonesia.