Ice hockey-Canada beat Russians after refusing to take the ice over COVID results

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BEIJING, Feb 7 (Reuters) - The Canadian women's ice hockey team refused to take the ice for nearly an hour on Monday at the Beijing Winter Games while they waited for the Russian Olympic Committee's (ROC) COVID-19 test results.

Canada went on to register a routine 6-1 win after players took the ice wearing masks due to "safety and security concerns" but the contest was far from uneventful as it got off to a chaotic and confusing start.

"Russia's results from this morning weren't back in yet," said Canada forward Natalie Spooner.

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"I know in the past few days they've had a few positives and we just wanted to make sure their results came back and we were safe to play."

Six members of the ROC squad had been placed in isolation last week after testing positive for the virus. read more

Although athletes have operated under strict COVID-19 protocols in Beijing, they have not had to wear masks during competition.

The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) put out a statement after the match but shed little light on the events leading to the delay, saying it was only concerned about player health and safety.

"With a view to ensure full understanding of the teams about the health and safety measures in place, the start of the preliminary round game between Canada and ROC was delayed by an hour," read the IIHF statement.

"Out of caution and concern for the health and safety of the players, the IIHF agreed with the participating teams to play with masks on."

The ROC skated onto the Wukesong Sports Centre ice for the introductions but were left standing on the blueline as the Canadians failed to join them.

When the players returned an hour later both teams were wearing masks under their helmets.

ROC players, however, removed their masks for the third period while the Canadians continued to wear theirs.

"They said their results came back and they were all negative and said they were going to take their masks off," said Spooner.

"We figured we've already done it for two periods why not just keep being extra-safe for one more period and make it through."

The masks did not seem to hurt the Canadians' performance as they jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead with Sarah Nurse and Sarah Fillier scoring 20 seconds apart.

Jamie Lee Rattray and Erin Ambrose put Canada up 4-0 in the second before Anna Shokhina finally got the ROC on the scoresheet.

Rebecca Johnston and Marie-Philip Poulin closed out the scoring.

Canada improved to 3-0 to sit top of Group A while the ROC fell to 1-2.

The Canadians will meet North American rivals the United States on Tuesday in a contest that will decide top spot in the group.

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Reporting by Steve Keating in Beijing, additonal reporting Amy Tennery. Editing by Shri Navaratnam, Peter Rutherford and Ed Osmond

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