In the past few days, the WHL is announcing yet another date for it’s season: March 19. Though details have yet to be announced, it looks like our discussion of pods and conferences seems to be headed that way.
The Portland Winterhawks will have to play in Washington along with the other US-based teams. There was thought that both the Everett Silvertips and Seattle Thunderbirds would host. Spokane would host Everett while Seattle would host Tri-City and Portland.
With a 24-game schedule, Friday to Sunday games will be the norm; players would be hotel-housed as per social distancing . There would be perhaps a look of maybe 4 teams then participating in the playoffs.
There is still uncertainty on a border opening, so chances are the 4 conferences would bubble in one location with that winner going to the Memorial Cup.
In BC, they are pushing the Prince George Cougars and Kamloops Blazers to host, with the Kelowna Rockets hosting both the Victoria Royals and Vancouver Giants. Of late though, Public Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry hasn’t signed off on the plan.
Alberta would see the Edmonton Oil Kings hosting the Red Deer Rebels with the Calgary Hitmen hosting Medicine Hat and Lethbridge.
Swift Current Broncos would be aligned in the East, so would travel to host the Saskatoon Blades and Prince Albert Raiders. Regina Pats would host the Moose Jaw Warriors and both Manitoba teams Winnipeg and Brandon.
This is all still very fluid though. They would also look to stream the games, though no price point has been offered.
Lethbridge was the first WHL team out of the gate to offer full refunds to season ticket holders. This hasn’t happened with any other team.
In Saskatchewan, with the majority of the WHL teams in community-owned situations with the exception of Saskatoon and Regina, the government offered each of the franchises $600,000 and the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League a total of $1,000,000 in their pay-to-play league.
With the WHL, as only Saskatchewan helped out thus far, the other teams are bound to get hit pretty hard financially.
No word on QMJHL or OHL restart dates and what their plans are going forward. No real dates of restart have happened and time is running out for games to resume.
With the WHL having to scramble, what has happened is that some teams who released players will not have them for this season. For Portland, that can hurt greatly. Joel Hofer, who would be eligible for his final year, Seth Jarvis who was just drafted and is with the American Hockey League and a few other players now with the Lincoln Stars in Nebraska will not join the team. As a result, there are players just hitting 16 that will join the team. Dante Giannuzzi will act as the team’s starting goaltender and another US goalie will be added to fill in the gap. For sure, it will be a hodgepodge team, but so will other team rosters. The poll is going be to given a heavy workout for sure as they all scramble to see what the teams hold in talent.
Should the season start up, it would assist getting players in the NHL Draft.
All in all, there are many options if the season can start and to what degree it would happen if all falls into place.
Stay tuned as it looks like we are all far from done during this pandemic.