Despite the Western Hockey League’s most valiant efforts, there will be no playoff hockey in the WHL this season.
Coming together to create a 24-game shortened regular season for 2020-21, the plan was always to push for a postseason – whether that be bubble style, or including some travel. With the 22 WHL clubs currently playing strictly within division, the hope was to have divisional postseason contests in the opening rounds, before shifting to league-wide matchups as the playoffs wore on.
But due to the local public health conditions and the many challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, travel across provincial and national borders has become exceptionally difficult. That, along with the rapid spread and transmission of the virus and its variants have caused the league to make a difficult decision.
“When we returned to play in February, we set out with the intention of completing a 24-game Regular Season schedule, knowing adjustments would be needed along the way,” WHL Commissioner Ron Robison said. “We remained hopeful that public health conditions would improve, but unfortunately that is not the reality we see in front of us today. The ongoing challenges with non-essential interprovincial and international cross-border travel leave us no alternative but to cancel the 2021 WHL Playoffs.”
Rather than providing year-end awards for individual success league-wide, the WHL has opted to rather recognize individual award winners from within each division in a virtual manner following the conclusion of the 2020-21 regular season.
“We commend our players, team staff, and officials for their commitment to following the protocols that have made this unprecedented season a success,” Robison added. “The WHL looks forward to recognizing individual award winners and all four WHL Division champions at the conclusion of the 2020-21 WHL Regular Season, including the presentation of the RE/MAX Cup for the B.C. Division champions and the Subway Cup for the East Division champions.”
Currently, the Brandon Wheat Kings sit atop the East Division with a 15-3-2 record for 32 points and a .800 points percentage through 20 games. The Saskatoon Blades and Winnipeg ICE follow shortly thereafter.
The WHL will continue to work with Government and Health Authorities regarding schedule options for the 2021-22 WHL Regular Season.