QMJHL has intentions of returning to the ice Oct. 1

WHL hopes to follow east

The Western Hockey League hopes it will be able to follow the lead of the QMJHL, and get back to playing hockey in October.

But, October is a long way off, and any resumption of play will ultimately be determined by provincial, and state health authorities and how well we have been able to contain the spread of COVID-19.

On Tuesday, the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League announced its intention to play a full 68-game schedule, with limited fans, beginning Oct. 1.

QMJHL commissioner Gilles Courteau said the league's intentions have been forwarded to the four governments where teams are located. While a return-to-play program is being finalized, Courteau says provincial guidelines will be strictly adhered to.

Kelowna Rockets president Bruce Hamilton, who also serves as chairman of the board of the WHL, says their hope is to be able to start at the same time, but adds the league does have about three starting dates already roughed out.

"Historically, we're about the third week of September. It would be foolish not to prepare for that, but it would also be foolish to not prepare for delays," said Hamilton.

"From our perspective, our business model doesn't work without fans, so it will be at a time when the health authority allows us to have the amount of people we fell that will make things work, or make it closer anyway."

When asked if he could envision returning at 50 per cent capacity, Hamilton said it's something they would have to look at.

"But, from my perspective, if you're guaranteed to lose money by opening the doors, why would you do it. We're all going to lose a significant amount of money...we already are, until the season starts."

Once the season begins, Hamilton says that when bills for players, rent, travel and the like start to pour in.

"I'm sure our league is working on matrix that show us what we need."

The league is also working with different schedules, depending on when they are told they can return to the ice. And, with teams in four provinces and two U.S. states, the game won't return until health authorities in all six give the go ahead.

He is encouraged that some minor hockey players in different provinces have already begun to hit the ice.

Hamilton says he expects the picture to become more clear by the middle of next month.

Also encouraging is an announcement by Premier John Horgan Wednesday that the province is ready to enter Phase 3 of its reopening plan mid-June.

That's a few weeks ahead of what had previously been announced.

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