Women's hockey group postpones Dream Gap tour series in Japan over 'worsening' coronavirus outbreak

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The PWHPA postponed its scheduled stop against the Japanese national team over coronavirus concerns. (David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
The PWHPA postponed its scheduled stop against the Japanese national team over coronavirus concerns. (David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Japan leg of the “Dream Gap Tour” is being pushed back due to “the worsening of the coronavirus outbreak in the region.”

The Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association (PWHPA), comprised primarily of top players from Canada’s and the United States’ national teams, made the announcement on Monday — six days after initially announcing the series on its website. The PWHPA was scheduled to play three games against the Japanese national women’s team from March 4-7 at Tokyo’s Shin-Yokohama Skate Center.

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The PWHPA wrote:

“After careful consideration, the Japan Ice Hockey Federation felt compelled to cancel the event in light of the worsening of the coronavirus outbreak in the region. While both organizations were excited for the games, the health and safety of the players and supporters is their primary concern at this time. The organizations will be working to reschedule the tournament in the 2020-2021 season.”

A roster of 18 players were scheduled to appear, including Gigi Marvin, Amanda Kessel and Haley Skarupa of the U.S. The Japanese team is ranked sixth in the world. The PWHPA will try to reschedule for the 2020-21 season.

“This is very disappointing for our players and staff, who were very much looking forward to this experience and working with the Japanese Ice Hockey Federation to grow the Women's game,” PWPHA president Jayna Hefford wrote on Twitter. “However, we will always make the health & safety of our players and staff a priority.”

Twelve new cases of COVID-19, the official World Health Organization for the current coronavirus, were reported around Japan on Monday, per the Japan Times. The total number of infections in the country is 159. It has forced the cancelation or postponement of dozens of sporting events like the LPGA tour swing through China and the World Indoor Track and Field Championships, which will now take place in March 2021. The IOC has contended the Olympics in Tokyo will go on this summer.

The Japan tour was scheduled ahead of the 2020 IIHF Women’s World Championships held in Nova Scotia. The “Dream Gap Tour” will make a stop in Philadelphia this weekend, Feb. 29 through March 1, with games played at the Virtua Center Flyers Skate Zone in New Jersey. They’ll switch to the west coast for a stop in Arizona the weekend of March 6.

The PWHPA is a union of roughly 200 women’s players from North American who are fighting for a “single, viable professional women’s ice hockey league in North America.” The players decided not to play in the NWHL for the foreseeable future.

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