WHL concludes AGM with hopes of playing full 68-game schedule

WHL eyes Oct. 2 return

The Western Hockey League is hoping to be able to play a full, 68-game schedule whenever it is allowed to safely return to the ice.

The league joined others around the world by suspending operations in early March due the COVID-19 pandemic. A week later it cancelled the balance of the regular season and, eventually the playoffs and Memorial Cup, scheduled for Kelowna.

The league unveiled its return-to-play protocol Wednesday, following conclusion of the league's annual general meeting.

While the league has set a target of opening a 2020-2021 season Oct. 2, it also suggested that date is contingent on receiving the necessary approvals from government and health authorities in each of the four provinces and two U.S. states which host WHL clubs.

The league says it has established return-to-play task forces within each of the six jurisdictions to work with local governments and health authorities to ensure the health and safety of all players, officials, staff and fans.

The league is also working with local governments to determine how many fans will be allowed to attend league games.

"The WHL is a spectator-driven league and the welcoming back of WHL fans is vital to a successful return to hockey for all 22 WHL member clubs," the league stated in a news release.

Kelowna Rockets president Bruce Hamilton previously told Castanet it would be foolish to start playing if teams were guaranteed to lose money the minute they opened the doors.

In other news out of the AGM, Hamilton was re-elected as chairman of the board for another two-year term. Hamilton is the longest service chairman in league history, serving in the role from 1998 to 2004, and from 2008 to the present.

The league also announced member clubs have contributed more than $28 million for players education since establishment of the league's scholarship program 26 years ago.

Under the program, for every season a player plays in the WHL, they receive a guaranteed, full-year WHL scholarship including tuition, textbooks and compulsory fees to a post-secondary institution of their choice.

Over 26 years, more than 6,400 former players have taken advantage of the scholarship program.

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