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Friendship Four tournament is axed for 2020

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Trophy joy: Northeastern Huskies won last year’s event

Trophy joy: Northeastern Huskies won last year’s event

Trophy joy: Northeastern Huskies won last year’s event

Organisers of US college event the Friendship Four have confirmed it will not be played in Belfast this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The annual ice hockey tournament, which brings some of the best American colleges to the city every year, was due to be played at the SSE Arena in November, with Army West Point, Mercyhurst University, Quinnipiac and Sacred Heart competing.

However, it has now been confirmed that the tournament, which was gearing up for its sixth edition, will not be played in Northern Ireland.

Concerns existed over both the safety of the players due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and the feasibility of the event given all four colleges would have been required to quarantine under government guidelines when they arrived in Northern Ireland, while it seems unlikely that spectators would have been able to attend.

Fans who had bought tickets for the event will be issued a full refund.

The tournament has been a massive success in recent years, with players and staff from the competing universities raving about the experience they receive when travelling over, as well as the hospitality they are afforded, with the teams making school visits into the community.

Off the ice, there are many positives that come from the event, with the competing colleges encouraged to bring over other students on exchange programmes, while the Odyssey Trust use it to promote education, social welfare and community integration in Northern Ireland by issuing free tickets to schools to encourage them to come and see the games.

Eric Porter, chairman of the Odyssey Trust, commented: "The Odyssey Trust, along with the participants and league commissioners, will continue to explore all options to ensure the legacy of the Friendship Four tournament will endure through this challenging time."

Belfast Telegraph