Western Hockey League gets approval to begin playing in Alberta Feb. 26

WHL returning in Alberta

Finally, some good news for at least some junior hockey players in Western Canada.

The government of Alberta and Alberta Health have granted approval for the five Alberta-based teams to begin playing Feb. 26.

The Western Hockey League has not seen any action since shutting down operations league-wide in March of last year.

The league made the announcement Thursday afternoon.

The decision means the teams operating in Edmonton, Calgary, Red Deer, Medicine Hat and Lethbridge will begin a 24-game schedule on that date. All games will be played within Alberta.

“The WHL appreciates the support we have received from Alberta Health as we work towards a safe return to play in the province,” said commissioner Ron Robison.

“With our extensive protocols and the necessary approvals now in place, we are looking forward to play getting underway in Alberta and allowing our players to continue their development at the highest level in the Canadian system.”

Under terms of the league's return to play protocols, teams will face a single opponent per week with a five-day break prior to facing a new opponent. As a result, games will be played on weekends only, and will consist of home-and-home games.

Players and staff will begin self-quarantining Saturday, before reporting to their clubs a week later.

On-ice training will begin Feb. 12 at the earliest.

Players will be tested upon reporting to their teams, then again before engaging in team activities.

If one or more players test positive for COVID-19 at any time during the season, the team will be required to suspend activities for a minimum of two weeks.

No spectators will be permitted during practice sessions or games.

The league says it is continuing to work with health authorities in B.C., Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Washington and Oregon to establish potential start dates in the other three divisions.

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