The odd visual of players wearing white COVID-19 masks under their hockey masks appeared in Beijing’s Olympic Games with Canada’s 6-1 win over Russia in women’s hockey Monday Players on both teams and on-ice officials stepped onto the ice for the game wearing KN95 masks after a delay of over an hour.
The teams and the International Ice Hockey Federation provided few details on the reason for the masks and the delay, but late test results were the issue.
The Associated Press reported Canada was unwilling to leave the dressing room because tests taken earlier in the day by the Russians had not yet been processed.
Russia’s hockey federation confirmed in a translated statement late tests were the issue, without identifying which team, and added the IIHF mediated an agreement between the two countries to play.
“We’re limited to accepting the only option that we were given, to play in masks,” Russian coach Yevgeni Bobariko said postgame via a translator.
Russia played short-handed a third straight game. The team spent two days isolating upon arrival in Beijing last week because of a coronavirus outbreak on the squad.
Half a dozen Russians sat out Friday’s opening win over Switzerland, 21 played in Saturday’s loss to the U.S. and 19 were in Monday’s lineup against Canada.
Canada had its own coronavirus development Monday. Forward Emily Clark was pulled during warm-up because of an inconclusive test, but that wasn’t the reason for the delay or the masks, head coach Troy Ryan said.
“The Clark situation completely happened after the decision to delay the game and the decision to wear masks,” Ryan said. “For health and safety, we pulled her from the lineup. I don’t think it was mandatory at that point.”
The Canadian coach insisted he didn’t know why masks were needed for the game to start.
“Health and safety. That’s all I was told,” Ryan said.
Russia and the on-ice officials removed their masks for the third period, but the Canadians wore theirs to the final buzzer.
“They just told us when we got out on the ice that their test results had come back negative and they were going to not play with them,” Canadian forward Natalie Spooner said.
“We just kind of said, ‘Well, we were in them for two periods, why not just stick it out?’ and we had them on already. We were already out on the ice, so we just kept them on and went with it.”
The Canadian women have skated and trained in masks before during their pre-Olympic preparation to avoid the spread of the virus.
“We’d never actually worn (KN95). We always wore the blue ones before,” Spooner said. “This is actually much better, because it doesn’t just suck into your mouth. I guess it’s a little bit harder to see the puck if it gets in the way.
“I would say the biggest difference is talking. You have to talk so much louder for everybody to hear you on the ice.
“We had a pretty good laugh about it. This is part of our story now, the COVID Olympics.”
Canada, 3-0, caps Pool A against the United States on Tuesday in a clash of unbeaten teams.
Sarah Fillier notched her team-leading fifth goal Monday. Jamie Lee Rattray, Sarah Nurse, Rebecca Johnston, Erin Ambrose and captain Marie-Philip Poulin with her first of the tournament also scored for Canada.
Goaltender Emerance Maschmeyer stopped 11 of 12 shots for the win in her first start of the tournament.
Anna Shokhina scored Russia’s lone goal. Starter Daria Gredzen turned away 30 shots over half a game before giving way to Maria Sorokina and her 13 saves.
Canada wasn’t as dominant early as it was in 12-1 and 11-1 wins over Switzerland and Finland respectively, but controlled the game from the outset.
Both teams participated in warm-up as per usual. When the Russians returned to the ice for player introductions, the Canadians didn’t emerge from their dressing room.
After circling the ice and sitting on the bench for 30 minutes, the Russians headed back to their dressing room to wait.
Gina Kingsbury, Hockey Canada’s director of national women’s teams, wouldn’t speak to reporters at the arena, but issued a statement later.
“With limited information at the time, our team came to an agreement with ROC to delay the start of today’s game,” Kingsbury said. “It was further agreed upon that, out of an abundance of caution, all players would wear masks for the game.”
The waiting Canadians were confident they were going to play the game against Russia, forward Brianne Jenner said.
“We’re so used to rolling with the punches. We were laughing, joking in the room, dancing,” the assistant captain said. “We were just ready for anything. If we’ve got to play in these again, we will.
“The only thing I think is we need some straws for the bench because it’s tough to get water in with these.”
Our Olympic team will be writing a daily newsletter to land in your inbox every morning during the Games. Sign up today to join us in keeping up with medals, events and other news.