Dr. Anthony Costa joins 2021 IIHF Women’s World Hockey Championship in Calgary as Event Chief Medical Officer

Dr. Anthony Costa, Clinical Instructor, UBC Department of Orthopaedics

Dr. Anthony Costa, Clinical Instructor with the UBC Department of Orthopaedics and orthopaedic surgeon in Prince George, served as Event Chief Medical Officer (CMO) for the 2021 International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Women’s World Championship held August 20 – 31, 2021 at the WinSport Arena at Canada Olympic Park in Calgary, Alberta.

The 2021 championship, originally scheduled for Halifax and Truro, Nova Scotia from May 6 – 16, 2021, was postponed because of safety concerns associated with COVID-19. The 2020 championship was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

UBC Department of Orthopaedics Communications asked Dr. Costa about his experience at the IIHF Women’s World Hockey Championship.

How did you feel when you heard that you’d been selected as the Event CMO?

Dr. Anthony Costa: Well, when I first got the call about the position, I was attending my oldest son’s soccer game with my wife and younger son, so it was a bit of a surprise, and there was a lot going on! I wasn’t even sure if my schedule would permit fulfilling the role. Once I had time to process everything and confirm acceptance of the position, I was honoured, humbled, and incredibly excited!

Can you tell me about your role as Event CMO and what a typical day might look like?

Dr. Costa: I don’t think there are really any typical days as a CMO, particularly for this tournament. There was a lot of managing COVID-19 protocols and testing, liaising with medical staff and personnel from Hockey Canada, the IIHF and other teams, and of course watching a lot of hockey! Additionally, we had several teams who were not able to bring physicians to the tournament for various reasons, so as CMO and the onsite doc covering most games, I was also responsible for a lot of medical assessments that would normally be the responsibility of team physicians.

Dr. Anthony Costa 2021 (second from left) at the IIHF Women’s World Hockey Championship. PHOTO SUBMITTED BY DR. ANTHONY COSTA

Fortunately, I had an incredible amount of support from Hockey Canada, IIHF staff, the Group23 medical group, Winsport Arena, Foothills Hospital ER staff, all the teams participating in the tournament, and my co-CMO Dr. Jia Hu, not to mention from Kevin Elliott, athletic therapist extraordinaire and Manager of Medical Services for Hockey Canada.

What inspired you to take on this role?

Dr. Costa: As a medical professional, it was obviously a great honour to be able to represent Canada and the UBC Department of Orthopaedics at an event of this magnitude. As a lifelong hockey fan and player who has a rink in his backyard every winter, it was certainly not an opportunity I was going to pass up!

How would you describe the atmosphere at the event? How did the delay and COVID-19 play into this, if at all?

Dr. Costa: It was my first time being this closely involved as a medical professional in athletics at this level, so I think I was probably blinded by my own excitement most of the time. Despite there being no fans in the stands for the majority of games, teams were definitely not lacking in motivation, and gameplay was intensely competitive. When fans were permitted to attend, particularly for the finals, it was pretty much what you might expect in a classic Canada vs U.S. showdown—absolutely electric!

Dr. Anthony Costa 2021 at the IIHF Women’s World Hockey Championship. PHOTO SUBMITTED BY DR. ANTHONY COSTA

As for COVID-19, I think it is fair to say that there was a COVID-related issue that came into play for just about every decision made at this event. The tournament had already been cancelled twice in Nova Scotia, and the plan to play in Calgary evolved in a relatively short timeframe during a worldwide pandemic with ever-changing public health guidelines, so our team needed to be adaptable to address new issues as they arose. I think it is a testament to the incredible dedication to COVID-19 safety exemplified by everyone involved that we ended up with zero positive tests for players and personnel within the bubble.

Tell us about your most memorable moments at the event?

Dr. Costa: There were actually a number of memorable moments at this tournament. I spent a lot of time in the medical room at ice level working closely with Kevin Elliott, the athletic therapist and Manager of Medical Services for Hockey Canada. It was hard work and long hours every day, but we had quite a few laughs in the process! It was truly a pleasure working with an individual who comes to work with so much passion and dedication every single day.

Dr. Anthony Costa (left) and Kevin Elliot (right) at 2021 IIHF Women’s World Hockey Championship. PHOTO SUBMITTED BY DR. ANTHONY COSTA

We also had a couple of tense medical situations—one with an airway issue and another with a cardiac issue. I was proud to see how well everyone on the medical team came together to manage these situations and ensure the best possible care.

Obviously, the gold medal win and the way it played out was certainly memorable. First, we were down 2–0, then the team rallied to tie it up and bring it to overtime. Next, Poulin scored in OT, and you could tell by her initial reaction that the puck was in, but our excitement was temporarily dashed when the goal was waved off by the on-ice official. We were all staring up at the box where the video review is located and watching the Hockey Canada and IIHF officials for a reaction. It seemed like forever, but once we saw the Hockey Canada crew dancing, we knew the team was golden! The buzzer went soon afterwards signalling the goal was good, and everyone went nuts!

But we didn’t have long to celebrate on the medical side, because one of the Canadian players was injured in the pile-up celebration. The Team Canada physician and our medical team helped ensure she was okay, and then we quickly got her back on the ice on a stretcher to join in the celebration and receive her medal. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a gold medal lineup with a player on a stretcher, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone on a stretcher with such a big smile on their face! A true champion and a truly memorable moment!

Team Canada at the 2021 IIHF Women’s World Hockey Championship. PHOTO SUBMITTED BY DR. ANTHONY COSTA

About Dr. Anthony Costa

Dr. Anthony Costa is a Clinical Instructor with the UBC Department of Orthopaedics and has been practicing comprehensive orthopaedic surgery with a subspecialty focus on complex knee-related disorders in Prince George for the past nine years. Dr. Costa has a keen interest in quality improvement, and he is excited to be involved in teaching, mentoring, and leading others through his role as Physician Quality Improvement Champion for Northern Health. He is also currently working to improve his own knowledge and skills in these areas through his enrollment in the Surgical Leadership Program at Harvard Medical School.

Outside of medicine, Dr. Costa, along with his wife, Dr. Denise Mackey (also an orthopaedic surgeon) and their two young boys, frequently make time to take advantage of the many outdoor opportunities available in BC, including hiking, camping, canoeing, fishing, surfing, skiing/snowboarding, and of course plenty of hockey!

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