Western Hockey League to return in January for 2020-2021 season

Canada

The Western Hockey League says it will resume play on Jan. 8, if it can receive the necessary permissions from health officials in Canada and the United States.

The start date of the 2020-2021 season has been pushed back multiple times, first to October, and then to December.

The WHL said in a release Wednesday that it continues to work with governments and health authorities in Western Canada and the U.S. Pacific Northwest to obtain the necessary approvals to play. 

If the season is able to begin, the WHL said all regular season games will be played exclusively within the boundaries of each division.

The East Division will consist of seven Saskatchewan and Manitoba teams, the Central Division will consist of the five Alberta teams, the B.C. Division of the five teams from British Columbia.; and the U.S. Division of the five teams in Washington and Oregon.

Game schedules will be released at a later date, the league said. It hasn’t yet been determined whether or not fans will be able to attend, as that decision will be up to health authorities in each region. 

“The WHL is very excited to be opening our WHL regular season on Jan. 8,” WHL commissioner Ron Robison said in a media release. “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.”

The league has also appointed a chief medical advisor, to help implement its health and safety protocol.

Dr. Dhiren Naidu is an associate professor at the University of Alberta and head team physician for the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers and CFL’s Edmonton Football Team, who served as the NHL’s medical director for the NHL hub.

The WHL consists of 22 clubs: 17 in Western Canada and five in the U.S. Pacific Northwest.

WHL players will report to their teams following Christmas break to begin training. 

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