Junior hockey is coming back to B.C. as the WHL announced that the regular season will start on Friday, Jan. 8 next year.
“The WHL is a world-class development league and we remain fully committed to providing our players with the highest level of training, coaching, and competition in the system,” said WHL commissioner Ron Robison.
Play will look very different due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, as the teams are expected to play only within provincial division boundaries.
That means the five B.C.-based teams, including Langley’s Vancouver Giants, will be seeing a lot of each other. The Giants’ primary opponents will be the Kamloops Blazers, Kelowna Rockets, Prince George Cougars, and Victoria Royals.
That’s just five of the 22 clubs in the WHL.
WHL players are scheduled to report to their clubs following the Christmas break, when they will begin training in preparation for the opening of the regular season.
The league also announced it has appointed Dr. Dhiren Naidu of Edmonton as the WHL Chief Medical Advisor.
An associate professor at the University of Alberta and head team physician for the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers and CFL’s Edmonton Football Team, Naidu served as the NHL Medical Director for the NHL hub, which just concluded in Edmonton. He will be assisting the WHL with the implementation of its comprehensive health and safety protocol, in consultation with provincial and state health authorities, the WHL announced.
The league is also still working with governments and health authorities in the provinces, and in the U.S. Division states of Washington and Oregon, to obtain necessary approvals for the season.
Right now, everything from the exact location of games to how fans may be able to watch remains unknown.
“Every single thing is up in the air right now in terms of logistics,” said Dan O’Connor, a spokesperson for the Vancouver Giants.
He said they hoped to get more information out to local fans as soon as it was available.
“A final determination has not yet been made as to whether spectators will be permitted to attend WHL games as this will be subject to the approval of the health authorities in each jurisdiction,” the WHL said in a statement.