Western Hockey League hopes to start season in December

WHL pushes back start

The Western Hockey League has joined the OHL in announcing plans to open the 2020-2021 season in December.

The WHL's new target date is Dec. 4.

The announcement Thursday comes a day after the Ontario Hockey League made a similar announcement.

In June, WHL commissioner Ron Robison said the league had hoped to restart at the beginning of October if it could get approvals from the various provincial and state health authorities to do so.

That has now been pushed back.

The league is still stipulating any restart is contingent on receiving the go ahead from each of those governments and health authorities.

In a news release, the league says discussions with those governing bodies concerning safety measures the league is prepared to undertake in order to protect players, fans and staff, and to address issues such as fan capacity and border crossing.

By moving to a December start, the league says it now has more time to address those issues.

“Regardless of our start date, the WHL is committed to playing a full regular season and playoffs in 2020-21,” said Robison.

“In our discussions with the government and health authorities, it has become apparent that additional time is required to ensure we can return to play in a safe and responsible manner. Our WHL health and safety protocols have been well received by the health authorities but we have several key issues that we will need to reach a resolution on in the coming months.”

In announcing its plan to return Wednesday, the OHL, which is hosting the Memorial Cup, says dates for the national championship tournament have been pushed back as well to June 17 to 27.

Council asked to sock away 135k for possible 2023 Memorial Cup

Contingency for 2023 cup?

Could Kelowna play host to the 2023 Memorial Cup?

The city will ask council to squirrel away $135,000 just in case.

Kelowna was slated to host the CHL championship event back in May, but the balance of the regular season, playoffs and Memorial Cup were all cancelled due to COVID-19.

Now, in a report for council, staff suggests placing a large chunk of the $225,000 it had earmarked as a grant for the event, in reserve should Kelowna be awarded the Memorial Cup in 2023, the next year the Western Hockey League will play host.

City staff is suggesting the balance of the grant funds, $90,000 go to the host society to help offset losses incurred due to the cancellation.

According to the report, a number of non-refundable operational expenses were incurred, such as branding, design, advertising, promotion and bid development.

The net loss was approximately $265,000.

The society is hoping to share the loss with the three host organizations, the city, Kelowna Rockets and Canadian Hockey League.

Kelowna Rockets shore up defence in CHL import draft

Rockets nab Czech d-man

The Kelowna Rockets have dipped into the Czech Republic for a defenceman in Tuesday's CHL import draft.

The Rockets, selecting 24th among the teams spanning the three major junior leagues in the country, took a flier on a big defenceman who has missed time the past two seasons due to injury.

Kelowna selected 6'3", 203 pound rearguard Michael Krutil.

Injuries limited the 18-year-old to just 70 games over the past two seasons.

This past season, he appeared in eight games with HC Stadion Litomerice (Czech2), recording an assist and two penalty minutes. He also played one game for HC Sparta Praha (Czech).

Despite limited action, Krutil is ranked 27th among European skaters per NHL Central Scouting for the upcoming 2020 NHL draft.

Krutil will join countryman Pavel Novak on the Kelowna roster.

Each team in the CHL is limited to just two European imports at any time.

The Rockets were able to make a selection during Tuesday's draft after releasing 19-year-old forward Jonas Peterek last week.

Kris Mallette named assistant for Under-17 Challenge

New gig for Rocket coach

Kelowna Rockets head coach Kris Mallette may be doing a bit of moonlighting later in the fall.

Mallette, who replaced Adam Foote behind the Kelowna bench near the end of last season, has been named an assistant coach for one of Canada's entries at the World Under-17 Challenge.

He was one of eight WHL personnel named to positions for the annual tournament.

Mallette will serve as assistant coach for Team Red. Chris Lazary, head coach of Saginaw in the OHL will serve as head coach of Team Red.

Kelowna native Jason Smart was named to the scouting staff.

The annual under-17 tournament is scheduled to be played in November in Summerside, PEI.

That could change depending on where the sport stands in the fall due to COVID-19.

Meantime, 113 players, including 35 drafted by WHL clubs, were invited to a virtual summer camp ahead of the event.

The players will be split into six teams for the week-long virtual camp, participating in a variety of sessions with a focus on player development through online education.

No members of the Kelowna Rockets were selected to the camp.

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