Delay of Game
by Andrew Podnieks|24 MAY 2022
The start of the Italy-Denmark game on 17 May was delayed by more than two hours because of a small fire at ice level.
photo: Andrea Cardin / HHOF-IIHF Images
When fans, workers, and players arrived at the Jaahalli on 17 May to learn that a small fire would keep them out of the building, the two scheduled World Championship games had to be delayed by more than an hour. No major damage was done, but had the games not been able to go ahead, it might well have caused chaos to the schedule. In the end, all was good.

The delay, though, brought to mind other famous (and infamous) moments in international hockey history where games have been delayed for a plethora of reasons. We look back on some memorable (and forgotten) moments that have caused delays, with a big thanks to Dave Fitzpatrick, the long-time IIHF Sport Director who was on hand for several of these episodes.

When Riga hosted the World Championship for the first time in 2006, one of the most anticipated games was Latvia-Canada on May 11. The game quickly got out of hand, however, as Latvia incurred one penalty after another—and Canada scored one goal after another. Indeed, the 11-0 win was punctuated by NINE power-play goals, a record to this day. At one point, fans tossed so many coins onto the ice teams were sent to their dressing rooms to wait out the clean-up. The Latvians didn’t even want to return to play. And captain Aleksandrs Semjonovs actually went to the penalty box and used the public address system to plead with fans to stop throwing things. “That was the year of the kazoo, and you could not hear yourself think in the arena,” recalled Fitzpatrick. “Bob Nadin, our referee supervisor, had to go into the Latvian dressing room and convince them to continue to play.”

Another delay involving Canada had occurred the year before on May 3, 2005. In the Canada-Slovenia game, Bill Beacon of the Canadian Press wrote the following in his game report of an 8-0 Canada victory:

“Players got a scare 18:38 into the first period when an Austrian news agency's still camera mounted on the metal grid under the ceiling that holds lighting fell onto the ice and smashed to pieces in front of [Gaber] Glavic's net. No one was hit, as play was at the other end of the ice at the time. Some photographers place cameras operated by remote control above the nets. Tournament officials said they have temporarily closed the catwalk above the rink and are investigating the incident.”

As soon as the camera smashed onto the ice play was stopped to allow for the clean-up, but nerves were definitely unsettled and everyone thankful that play was at the other end. It could have been much worse.

The Switzerland-Sweden game of May 10, 2006, was a weird one, to say the least. Fitzpatrick recalls the details of what turned out to be a lengthy delay mid-game. “The ice surface had been installed at the exhibition hall, so this was not a full-time hockey rink. During this game, players coming on and off the ice caused the boards to cantilever, and this pulled up a huge chunk of ice at the base of the dasher. One of the linesmen pulled up a huge chunk of ice and tossed it over the boards, and it quickly melted! Both teams refused to play until the hole was repaired and the boards considered safe by the IIHF. Ralph Krueger and “Gus” [Bengt-Ake Gustafsson], the two coaches, were not pleased by what turned out to be a very long delay.”

How is it possible for an hockey game in the modern era to be delayed by….sun? Fitzpatrick explains: “At the 1996 World Championship in Vienna, the first game of the tournament held at the Albert Schultz Eishalle was delayed because the sunlight from the setting sun was coming in through the windows of the venue and shining in the eyes of the goaltender at the south-east end. Bob Nadin, the legendary referee supervisor for the IIHF, would not allow the game to begin under these adverse conditions, so the organizers had to go across town to the Weiner Stadthalle and transport large curtains, which had been used as office dividers, which they then used to block out the sun from the playing surface.”

Of course, the biggest delay in IIHF history was the actual playing of the 2021 World Championship. The 2020 edition set for Switzerland was cancelled entirely, and it looked like 2021 might be as well. But the IIHF determined it would be safe to hold games without fans, and the tournament was played from 21 May to 6 June, the latest ever WM.

Just last February there was delay of more than an hour in the Canada-ROC game. Teams were ready to play, but Canada hadn’t received ROC’s covid test results beforehand and didn’t want to take chances. In the end, teams took to the ice wearing masks.

A more enjoyable series of delays took place in Buffalo on December 29, 2018, when Canada and the United States played their preliminary-round game outdoors at New Era Field. Frequent snowfall forced officials to stop for lengthy shovelling timeouts, but no one cared. It was perhaps most beautiful game ever played.

One that will go down infamy. On January 11, 1976, as part of the NHL-Soviet tour, CSKA Moscow arrived in Philadelphia. The Flyers tried to intimidate their opponents to the point that coach Konstantin Loktev pulled his team from the ice in the first period, prompting play-by-play man Bob Cole’s famous call, “They’re going home! They’re going home!” Loktev was eventually convinced to send his players back out.

The most memorable and spectacular of in-game delays must surely be Game 8 of the Summit Series on September 28, 1972, at the Luzhniki Sports Palace in Moscow. Midway through the third period, the Canadian players feared that NHLPA executive director Alan Eagleson might be arrested or harmed by the Soviet Army. Several skaters crossed the ice and pulled him from the grasp of soldiers and escorted him across the ice to the Canadian bench. It was a moment fraught with tension, the politics at this moment outweighing the score (but perhaps not by much!).