WHL Now Granted To Play In BC … Just A Little Late

The WHL will finally be able to have all teams play, granted the BC Division will start a week later than everyone else. 

March 26th is the date that the BC Division will finally get underway. As mentioned before, the teams will play in 2 arenas with Prince George and Kamloops in one venue with Kelowna hosting Victoria and Vancouver. Health Minister Adrian Dix announced that it had come to an agreement with the WHL but had a few pieces still to firm up. It appears that the WHL teams which will be traveling are looking to camp out at local hotels near the arena. It hasn’t been announced if Kelowna or Kamloops will be doing billets.

A press release was sent from Calgary, Alberta  

Calgary, Alta. – The Western Hockey League announced today it has been granted approval by the B.C. Provincial Health Office to play in two Hub Centers located in Kamloops and Kelowna, which will allow the WHL’s B.C. Division teams to open their season on Friday, March 26.

“The WHL appreciates the cooperation we have received from the Provincial Health Officer and health officials in B.C. as we work toward a safe return to play in the B.C. Division,” commented WHL Commissioner Ron Robison. “With our extensive protocols and the necessary approvals now in place, we are looking forward to play beginning in the Kamloops and Kelowna Hubs. We are excited to now have all four WHL Divisions returning to play as it was our objective from the onset to deliver a season for all of our players.”

Five WHL Clubs located in B.C. will form the B.C. Division, including the Kamloops Blazers, Kelowna Rockets, Prince George Cougars, Vancouver Giants, and Victoria Royals. The WHL has agreed that all B.C. Division games during the 2020-21 Regular Season will be played exclusively within the B.C. Division Hub Centers of Kamloops and Kelowna, under an approved WHL cross-Hub Center model.

Three WHL Clubs – the Kamloops Blazers, Prince George Cougars, and Vancouver Giants – will be based out of the WHL Hub Center located in Kamloops. Two WHL Clubs – the Kelowna Rockets and Victoria Royals – will be based out of the WHL Hub Center located in Kelowna.

As a result of facility capacity limitations, it was determined a dual Hub Center model was the most appropriate to allow for the effective implementation of WHL Return to Play Protocols and the highest level of risk mitigation. WHL Clubs will be permitted to travel directly between each B.C. Division Hub Center for game play, with no stops permitted between the Hub Centers.

The WHL B.C. Division schedule will commence on Friday, March 26. The WHL’s B.C. Division will play a 24-game Regular Season Schedule, which will be announced at a later date. Based on the approved WHL protocols, games will be played exclusively at the Sandman Centre in Kamloops and Prospera Place in Kelowna.

The WHL has developed an extensive set of protocols and believe the protective cross-Hub environment will provide a high standard of safety, for not only players and staff, but the Kamloops and Kelowna communities at large. WHL players and staff from B.C. Division Clubs will begin self-quarantining on March 6 and then will report to their respective WHL Hub Center in Kamloops or Kelowna on March 13, where they will be required to undergo COVID-19 testing upon arrival followed by an additional quarantine period. Players and staff will then undergo a second COVID-19 test before being permitted to engage in any team activity.

WHL Clubs are also committed to providing private PCR testing through DynaLIFE Medical Labs, to ensure no additional strain is placed on public health. All private testing conducted in the B.C. Division will be processed and analyzed at DynaLIFE’s Alberta-based laboratory in Edmonton. DynaLIFE’s PCR testing is considered a gold standard for COVID-19 testing, and was utilized in Edmonton during the NHL’s Stanley Cup Playoffs and the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship.

The WHL will implement an ongoing weekly private PCR testing strategy. If a WHL Club has one or more players or staff test positive for COVID-19 at any point in the season, the Club will be required to suspend its Club activities for a minimum of 14 days.

Enhanced screening for all WHL players, team staff and officials will also take place on a daily basis, including regular temperature screenings as well as symptom monitoring through the WHL Athlete RMS Mobile Application. Masks must be worn by all WHL players at all times with the exception of when participating on ice for games and practices. WHL coaches will be required to wear masks at all times, including while conducting practice and while behind the bench during games.

As the WHL returns to play in the B.C. Division, no spectators will be permitted to enter WHL facilities. WHL fans can take in all the action on WHL Live on CHL TV, including freeview opportunities for each Club’s home opening game. Visit WHL.ca or watch.CHL.ca for complete details.

Approval for the B.C. Division to return to play ensures all 22 WHL Clubs will compete during the 2020-21 WHL Regular Season. The WHL Central Division opened on February 26, while the East Division Hub Center in Regina starts on March 12 and the U.S. Division begins play on March 19. 

The Portland Winterhawks have received word that Jaydon Dureau will be released from his amateur tryout with the Syracuse Crunch and will head back to Portland to continue his junior career. Seth Jarvis will be returning from the Chicago Wolves, which is the farm team of the Carolina Hurricanes, as he is not of age to play pro only unless he was to part of the Canes. However at 18, Carolina would have 2 years to make the decision and they don’t appear to be rushing as they have already signed him to an entry level deal. 

John Ludvig didn’t take long to get on the scoresheet as a professional. Through seven games as a defenseman, Ludvig has three points and ten shots on goal including an assist in his first game. He grabbed the puck on a pass from the behind the net and fired from just past the left dot. His goal put Syracuse up 5-3.  

The schedules for all the other divisions will be released shortly and then the games will begin. It appears that target end will be in Mid-May.  

At this time, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced the Canadian border will remain closed until further notice. With that, no one is certain of cross border travel.  

The OHL is still waiting to get approval of restarting their games and trying to figure how the US Teams will be able to take part. Though it hasn’t been announced, it may be that the 3 US teams in the OHL would have to play against each other if the border is not available to be crossed.  

It’s going to be wild as the teams try to get going again. So far four games have been able to be played in the WHL in the Central Division and without any issues thus far. 

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About Stuart Kemp 279 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.