Helsinki venue loses IIHF Worlds amid Russian connections

Helsinki Halli has been stripped of hosting rights for this year’s International Ice Hockey World Championship in Finland, with the decision reportedly linked to its connections to Russians on the international sanctions list.

The 13,000-capacity arena was due to co-host the event alongside Tampere’s Nokia Arena from May 13-29.

However, the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) announced on Saturday that games scheduled to take place at the Helsinki Halli will now be played at the smaller Helsinki Ice Hall, which seats 8,200 spectators.

The IIHF did not disclose a reason for the venue switch, but Helsinki Halli is owned by Arena Events Oy, a company belonging to Russians Gennady Timchenko and Roman Rotenberg. Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Timchenko and Rotenberg are on the international sanctions list.

Heikki Hietanen, general secretary of the event’s organising committee, said: “The Helsinki Ice Hall, opened in 1966, will host its fourth IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship. IIHF Ice Hockey World Championships were played there for the first time in 1974 and the most recent one was in 1991. Also, a group in the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship was played at the Helsinki Ice Hall.”

The decision comes after Helsinki Halli’s naming-rights sponsor, beverage company Hartwall, opted to end its association with the venue last month. Hartwall had sponsored the arena for over 20 years.

The IIHF also announced that France and Austria will be competing at the World Championship instead of Russia and Belarus, who have both been banned.

Nokia Arena, the other host venue for the event, opened in December.

Image: Löfbergs/CC BY 3.0/Edited for size