On Friday, the Western Hockey League announced that it had been given approval by the Saskatchewan provincial government to host a hub-city ‘bubble’ in Regina, where all Saskatchewan and Manitoba-based WHL teams will play out the duration of the 2020-21 season.
With the ongoing global pandemic, the season has seen its scheduled start date pushed back on many occasions, but according to Friday’s news, the season has been salvaged and will be played out as a 24-game mini-tournament within the East Division. The season will begin on Friday, March 12.
“The WHL appreciates the cooperation we have received from both the Governments of Saskatchewan and Manitoba as we work towards a safe return to play in the East Division,” WHL Commissioner Ron Robison said in a league-issued release. “With our extensive protocols and the necessary approvals now in place, we are looking forward to play getting underway in Regina and allowing our players to continue their development at the highest level in the Canadian system.”
Players making up the Moose Jaw Warriors, Prince Albert Raiders, Regina Pats, Saskatoon Blades, Swift Current Broncos, Brandon Wheat Kings, and Winnipeg ICE will participate in games based solely out of Regina’s Brandt Centre with no fans in attendance. The season schedule is yet to be released for any of the participating teams.
Self-quarantine for Saskatchewan and Manitoba-based players will begin on February 20, with teams travelling to the bubble on February 27. All entering the bubble will undergo a COVID-19 test and another quarantine, followed by one more COVID-19 test in order to be allowed to participate in any team activity.
From the WHL:
WHL Clubs are also committed to providing private PCR testing through DynaLIFE Medical Labs, to ensure no additional strain is placed on public health. Players will be tested upon arrival to their WHL Club and once again before engaging in any team activity. 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 East Division, no spectators will be permitted to enter WHL facilities. WHL fans can look forward to the launch of a brand-new live streaming service that will deliver the excitement of WHL hockey straight to their homes. Details on the new WHL Live will be announced soon.