This past week, both the American Hockey League and the Western Hockey League announced their respective plans to return to hockey action on December 4, 2020. This news comes after ‘significant consideration and respect to the governing health bodies’ within the appropriate geographical zones.
How things will look within the AHL and WHL remains unknown. Will fans be in attendance? Will teams play out of their own home arenas? Will some teams share arenas, training facilities, flights, buses? At this point, we do not know.
What we do know is that of all of the ‘return-to-play’ frameworks within the NHL, NBA, NFL and MLB, the National Hockey League has done the absolute best job of providing a safe playing/living/working environment for its member players and teams.
With over 7K COVID-19 tests done weekly, the league has yet to have a positive case of the virus, while players continue to adhere to set policy and rules while living within the bubble cities of Edmonton and Toronto. Will a similar setup occur within the WHL and AHL? Absolutely not. But will there be hockey? Yes – beginning on December 4.
On July 30, AHL president and CEO Scott Howson announced that the league will begin play on the 2020-21 season on December 4, following the recommendation from the Return to Play Task Force, and the approval from the league’s Board of Governors at the annual meeting. Guidelines for each of the 31 member clubs will be provided in the coming months.
On Thursday, WHL commissioner Ron Robison announced the plans for a full 68-game 2020-21 season, also set to begin on December 4.
“Regardless of our start date, the WHL is committed to playing a full Regular Season and Playoffs in 2020-21,” he said in a league-issued press release. “In our discussions with the government and health authorities, it has become apparent that additional time is required to ensure we can return to play in a safe and responsible manner. Our WHL health and safety protocols have been well received by the health authorities but we have several key issues that we will need to reach a resolution on in the coming months.”