WHL makes vaccine mandatory for players, coaches and officials

Photo Courtesy of Keith Hershmiller/WHL The Prince Albert Raiders huddle around netminder Max Paddock prior to an April 2 game with the Winnipeg Ice at the Brandt Centre in Regina.

Vaccines will be mandatory for all players, coaches, and officials for the upcoming WHL season.

The league announced on Monday that all roster players, hockey operations staff, and WHL office personnel must be fully vaccinated at least 14 days prior to the start of the season on Oct. 1. Fans were not mentioned in the vaccine policy.

“The health and safety of our players and staff continues to be the number one priority for the WHL,” commissioner Ron Robison said in a media release. “The policy is designed to further protect our players and staff in the WHL from the potential risk of exposure to COVID-19.”

The policy does not extend to billet households, but the league has strongly recommended that each player stay in a house where all eligible individuals are fully vaccinated.

“With travel restrictions currently in place with the Canada/U.S. border as well as the province of Manitoba, it is important all players and staff are fully vaccinated in order to be eligible to play a full season in the WHL,” Robison said.

The list of people who must be vaccinated includes GMs, coaches, head scouts, player personnel directors, equipment managers, on-ice and off-ice consultants, on-ice officials, penalty box attendants, timekeepers, scorekeepers, and any other individuals who directly interact with players on a regular basis.

Canada’s other two major junior hockey leagues, the OHL and QMJHL, both announced mandatory vaccine policies in July.

The OHL policy applies to “OHL community members,” a category that includes volunteers and billet families, as well as players, and team and league officials. The QMJHL policy applies to all players, plus staff who are in contact with players.