The WHL's BC Division gets approval for abbreviated 24-game schedule

WHL gets go ahead in BC

Hockey will return to Prospera Place in Kelowna and the Sandman Centre in Kamloops before the end of the month.

The Western Hockey League announced this afternoon the province has given its blessing for the league to conduct an abbreviated 24-game schedule using a dual hub city model.

The Prince George Cougars and Vancouver Giants will join the Blazers in one hub city in Kamloops while the Victoria Royals will join the Rockets in Kelowna in the other hub.

“The WHL appreciates the cooperation we have received from the Provincial Health Officer and health officials in B.C. as we work toward a safe return to play in the BC Division,” said league commissioner Ron Robison.

“With our extensive protocols and the necessary approvals now in place, we are looking forward to play beginning in the Kamloops and Kelowna hubs. We are excited to now have all four WHL Divisions returning to play as it was our objective from the onset to deliver a season for all of our players.”

Bruce Hamilton, president of the Rockets and chairman of the board of the WHL, told Castanet News players will begin a seven-day quarantine Saturday, then report to their respective hub city March 13 for another seven-day quarantine.

That will be followed by a one-week training camp, with the abbreviated season set to begin Friday, March 26.

Hamilton says a schedule could be released as early as Wednesday.

"I would hope there are 25 players that are really thrilled because that's what it's all about. Get them a chance to play and get them exposure in a year that has been quite challenging for everybody," said Hamilton.

Fans will not be allowed inside the building. In fact, only a select few will be admitted inside.

"We are going to be in a position where the only people allowed into the rink basically, other than the people working the game, there will be a very small number of seats made available for the NHL scouts.

"They will be the only additional people allowed in likely."

With no fans, Hamilton has said all along the teams wanted to play at least some games in order to give players exposure to NHL scouts, especially those who are draft eligible.

Hamilton says the team will apply to bring forward Pavel Novak over from Europe, where he just completed a professional season.

That decision will be up to Canadian Immigration, however, Hamilton says they have been reluctant to give special permission for players outside North America.

Defenceman Michael Krutil, the team's other import, will remain in Rockford where he is playing regularly in the AHL.

The remaining players, including those in the American League, will be heading to Kelowna in 11 days time.

The 24-game schedule will be played over a 48 day period, meaning games will be played midweek as well as on weekends.

More WHL articles