WHL Looks To January As Start Date

The WHL has twice now switched its proposed start months and now looks to add a third. After saying October 2 and then December 4, the WHL hopes it will get going January 8. The hope is to use the four divisions as the team schedule with Swift Current joining back to Saskatchewan’s East Conference so the four divisions will see play in Saskatchewan/Manitoba, Alberta, BC and then the US. By doing so, it might buy some time to once again look to the Canada border, which is shut though at least October 21.

The WHL posted the news on their website:

Calgary, Alta. – The Western Hockey League Board of Governors announced today the WHL Regular Season is scheduled to open on Friday, January 8, 2021.

The WHL continues  to work with each of the Governments and Health Authorities in the Provinces and States in Western Canada and the U.S. Pacific Northwest, respectively, on obtaining the necessary approvals to commence play. Details regarding the schedule of games in each of the four WHL Divisions will be announced at a later date.

The WHL has agreed that all Regular Season games during the 2020-21 season will be played exclusively within the boundaries of each of the four Divisions, with the East Division consisting of the seven Saskatchewan and Manitoba-based teams; the Central Division consisting of the five Alberta-based teams; the B.C. Division consisting of the five B.C.-based teams; and the U.S. Division consisting of the five teams located in Washington and Oregon.

“The WHL is very excited to be opening our WHL Regular Season on January 8,” commented WHL Commissioner Ron Robison. “The WHL is a world-class development league and we remain fully committed to providing our players with the highest level of training, coaching, and competition in the system.”

All WHL players will be reporting to their respective WHL Clubs following the Christmas break where they will begin training in preparation for the opening of the WHL Regular Season on January 8.

The WHL also announced today it has appointed Dr. Dhiren Naidu of Edmonton as the WHL Chief Medical Advisor. Dr. Naidu, an Associate Professor at the University of Alberta and Head Team Physician for the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers and CFL’s Edmonton Football Team, served as the NHL Medical Director for the NHL hub, which just concluded in Edmonton. Dr. Naidu will be assisting the WHL with the implementation of its comprehensive health and safety protocol, in consultation with Provincial and State Health Authorities.

The WHL looks forward to continuing work with Government and Health Authorities in our region and will implement any measures that are necessary to protect our players, staff, officials, and fans during the COVID-19 pandemic. A final determination has not yet been made as to whether spectators will be permitted to attend WHL games as this will be subject to the approval of the Health Authorities in each jurisdiction.

The Ontario Hockey League hasn’t updated their opening, listed as December 4, but with Ontario seeing “hot zones” of infection rates climbing, that date doesn’t look solid either.

Gregg Drinnan, who is the former Sports Editor at the Kamloops Daily News and posts a column called Taking Note these days, has seen heavy fallout in the QMJHL. First, with just 12 teams able to compete due to virus restrictions, the fallout from the series which Blainville-Boisbriand garnered 18 Covid 19 infections, the Sherbrooke Phoenix tested 8 infections on their squad. They are both off until the end of the month. There is talk of other Quebec teams also having issues though not as grand a scale, but enough so that they too are limited in when they can play. One is the Quebec Remparts who have played just two games in the season along with Sherbrooke and Blainville-Boisbriand. Moncton, New Brunswick has been moved back to Orange Zone level two meaning that play for the Wildcats is not allowed and as such are limited to practice only.

With all of this, is the uncertainty of the Portland Winterhawks sale. As of this moment, nothing has been announced and one group that has had talks and discussions has only had those preliminary talks. The latest of the Rose Quarter is that they have started to move events originally set for up to December to April and beyond. While they are different from sports, the fact that they are ticketed items and can not run venues at this time, places like the Veterans Memorial Coliseum and Moda Center are about to see more events shuttled to different dates.

Currently everything remains in a holding pattern. The Wenatchee Wild, the lone Washington State member of the BCHL, dealt defenceman Tanner Main to the Prince George Spruce Kings, Main, the native of Welland, Ontario had already committed to Div 1 Bentley University.  asked the Wild for the opportunity to play out his final season of juniors at home in Canada, which the team honored due to the uncertainty of border crossings in the immediate future.The Wild wish Main great success as he continues his career in his last year of Junior eligibility. It will be interesting to see if others on the team who are also Canadian, look to other pastures to play out their careers or gain some type of certainty.

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About Stuart Kemp 294 Articles
Stuart Kemp is the President of the Portland Winterhawks Booster Club since 2008 and has been following hockey from his native Canada since he can remember, though he can't skate, but played road hockey for several years. Loving hockey and professional wrestling, he has traveled to most of the WHL cities and with wrestling, has seen four provinces and five states. It is true that every Canadian city with more than 500 residents has a hockey rink, well at least it looks that way. Stuart has had his hand in every facet of independent Professional wrestling as he debuted as an announcer in 1986 which started his career.