Following a Sunday afternoon practice at Xcel Energy Center, Joel Johnson noted how well the U.S. women's hockey team has handled the daily uncertainty generated by COVID-19. Less than 24 hours later, the virus dealt another blow to the American coach and his players when Monday's game against Canada was canceled.
USA Hockey announced the cancellation just six hours before the opening faceoff at Xcel, citing "concerns around COVID-19.'' A source familiar with the reason for the decision said Canada chose not to play after one of its players tested positive. Hockey Canada did not respond to questions about the cancellation, but it said in a statement that all players, coaches and staff were being tested daily while in the United States and that it is "continuing to monitor the situation closely.''
Hockey Canada also said it will postpone the announcement of its women's Olympic roster, which was set for Wednesday.
"While it is disappointing to not be able to play the game, the priority remains the health and safety of the athletes, staff and the community at large,'' the statement said. "The medical staff continues to follow all protocols as outlined by health authorities.''
The game at Xcel was the last scheduled U.S. stop on the "My Why'' tour, a nine-game series designed to prepare the two countries for the upcoming Beijing Olympics. USA Hockey officials said about 10,000 fans were expected to attend. It will not be rescheduled.
"We're extremely disappointed to not be able to play the game tonight,'' USA Hockey executive director Pat Kelleher said in a statement. "We're thankful for the great support we've received from the Minnesota Wild, Xcel Energy Center and the Minnesota hockey community, and we look forward to the next time we're back here in Minnesota.''
Canada has won four of the first six games on the tour, which is set to conclude with a pair of games in Canada on Jan. 3 and Jan. 5. The Olympics begin Feb. 4.
USA Hockey plans to announce its women's Olympic roster on Jan. 1, during the NHL Winter Classic at Target Field.
Both teams practiced at Xcel on Sunday. The U.S. group, which recently was reduced to the 23-player Olympic roster size, has nine athletes with Minnesota ties. The Americans have been living and training at Blaine's Super Rink since October.
The U.S. roster includes 2018 Olympic gold medalists Lee Stecklein (Roseville), Hannah Brandt (Vadnais Heights), Dani Cameranesi (Plymouth), Kelly Pannek (Plymouth), Maddie Rooney (Andover) and Amanda Kessel. Grace Zumwinkle (Excelsior), Abbey Murphy and Megan Bozek, who helped the U.S. win the silver medal at last summer's world championships, also are on the roster. All of them are former Gophers except Rooney, a former goalie for Minnesota Duluth.
USA Hockey said tickets purchased online via Ticketmaster will be automatically refunded, while other tickets will be refunded at the point of purchase.