The Western Hockey League has been granted approval by the B.C. Provincial Health Office to play in two hub centres – Kamloops and Kelowna – which will allow the WHL’s B.C. Division teams to open their season on Friday, March 26.
“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 B.C. Division,” said WHL Commissioner Ron Robison, in a news release. “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.”
Five WHL Clubs located in B.C. will form the B.C. Division, including the Kamloops Blazers, Kelowna Rockets, Prince George Cougars, Vancouver Giants, and Victoria Royals. The WHL has agreed that all B.C. Division games during the 2020-21 Regular Season will be played exclusively within the B.C. Division hub centres of Kamloops and Kelowna, under an approved WHL cross-hub centre model.
Three WHL clubs – the Kamloops Blazers, Prince George Cougars, and Vancouver Giants – will be based out of the WHL hub centre located in Kamloops. Two WHL clubs – the Kelowna Rockets and Victoria Royals – will be based out of the WHL hub centre located in Kelowna.
As a result of facility capacity limitations, it was determined a dual hub centre model was the most appropriate to allow for the effective implementation of WHL return to play protocols and the highest level of risk mitigation. WHL Clubs will be permitted to travel directly between each B.C. Division hub centre for game play, with no stops permitted between the hub centres.
The WHL B.C. Division schedule will commence on Friday, March 26. The WHL’s B.C. Division will play a 24-game regular season schedule, which will be announced at a later date. Based on the approved WHL protocols, games will be played exclusively at the Sandman Centre in Kamloops and Prospera Place in Kelowna.
The WHL has developed an extensive set of protocols and believe the protective cross-Hub environment will provide a high standard of safety, for not only players and staff, but the Kamloops and Kelowna communities at large. WHL players and staff from B.C. Division clubs will begin self-quarantining on March 6 and then will report to their respective WHL Hub Center in Kamloops or Kelowna on March 13, where they will be required to undergo COVID-19 testing upon arrival followed by an additional quarantine period. Players and staff will then undergo a second COVID-19 test before being permitted to engage in any team activity.
WHL Clubs are also committed to providing private PCR testing through DynaLIFE Medical Labs, to ensure no additional strain is placed on public health. All private testing conducted in the B.C. Division will be processed and analyzed at DynaLIFE’s Alberta-based laboratory in Edmonton. DynaLIFE’s PCR testing is considered a gold standard for COVID-19 testing, and was utilized in Edmonton during the NHL’s Stanley Cup Playoffs and the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship.
The WHL will implement an ongoing weekly private PCR testing strategy. If a WHL Club has one or more players or staff test positive for COVID-19 at any point in the season, the Club will be required to suspend its Club activities for a minimum of 14 days.
Enhanced screening for all WHL players, team staff and officials will also take place on a daily basis, including regular temperature screenings as well as symptom monitoring through the WHL Athlete RMS mobile application. Masks must be worn by all WHL players at all times with the exception of when participating on ice for games and practices. WHL coaches will be required to wear masks at all times, including while conducting practice and while behind the bench during games.
As the WHL returns to play in the B.C. Division, no spectators will be permitted to enter WHL facilities. WHL fans can take in all the action on WHL Live on CHL TV, including freeview opportunities for each Club’s home opening game. Visit WHL.ca or watch.CHL.cafor complete details.
Approval for the B.C. Division to return to play ensures all 22 WHL Clubs will compete during the 2020-21 WHL Regular Season. The WHL Central Division opened on February 26, while the East Division Hub Center in Regina starts on March 12 and the U.S. Division begins play on March 19.