Start of 2020-21 WHL season delayed

As had been widely reported over the last week, the 2020-21 Western Hockey League regular season has once again been pushed back.

In a press release that came out early Tuesday evening, the league officially announced that they are not in a position to start the campaign as planned on Jan. 8, 2021. due to public health restrictions that are in place across the league’s six provincial and state jurisdictions of Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Oregon, Saskatchewan and Washington.

“We continue to make every effort to get our season started, but our first priority has always been the health and safety of our players, and everyone associated with the WHL,” WHL Commissioner Ron Robison said in a prepared statement.

“Given the public health restrictions that are currently in effect, we are not in a position to determine a new target date for our season. We will continue to consult with health authorities to determine when it is safe and responsible to get our season started.”

The league said in their statement that the WHL’s Board of Governors will meet in January to consider potential start dates.

This marks the third time that the 2020-21 campaign has been delayed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, with previous opening nights slated for Oct. 2 and Dec. 4.

As of Tuesday evening, the only leagues in Canada that are currently playing regular season contests are the Maritime Hockey League, Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League and the Superior International Junior Hockey League.

The British Columbia Hockey League, Central Canadian Hockey League, Ontario Junior Hockey League and the Quebec Junior Hockey League have all played pre-season games, but have yet to announce their regular season start date.

The Alberta Junior Hockey League, Manitoba Junior Hockey League, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League have all paused their schedules until the start of 2021 at the earliest due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Ontario Hockey League is hoping to start their campaign on Feb. 4, 2021.

In the pro ranks, the ECHL began their season last weekend, while the American Hockey League is targeting a Feb. 5, 2021 opening date.

The National Hockey League has yet to finalize their schedule, though it’s been widely rumoured that they hope to begin play on Jan. 13, 2021.

Meanwhile, the National Collegiate Athletic Association, North American Hockey League and United States Hockey League are all well into their regular season slates.

The only league that has cancelled play is U Sports, who will not be holding their national championship this year.