WHL reaffirms commitment to having a 2020-21 season

Regular season slate cut down to 24 games

Although the details were scant, the Western Hockey League announced late Friday night that they are still planning to take to the ice this year.

Following a meeting with the league’s Board of Governors earlier in the day, it was revealed in a press release that the 2020-21 campaign will take place.

However, a start date will only be determined once final approval has been made by provincial and state health authorities, which the WHL says they hope to receive soon.

“The Western Hockey League is committed to providing a season for WHL players,” WHL Commissioner Ron Robison said in a prepared statement. “This commitment ensures WHL players will receive the opportunity to compete at the highest level in the system and continue to pursue their hockey goals in the world’s finest development league for junior hockey players.”

The league also revealed that the 2020-21 regular season would consist of 24 games, which is a dramatic decrease from the usual 68-game slate in recent years, and that all models and schedule formats are currently being considered.

During the last press conference the league held on Oct. 15, shortly after a proposed 50-game schedule with a Jan. 8 start date was announced, the plan at the time was for all 22 teams in the WHL to play in a strictly divisional format during the regular season.

In the case of the Prince Albert Raiders, they would have remained in the East Division and played against the Brandon Wheat Kings, Moose Jaw Warriors, Regina Pats, Saskatoon Blades, Swift Current Broncos and the Winnipeg Ice.

“We understand what this announcement from the WHL means for our Season Ticket Holders that have either renewed or purchased new seats for the upcoming season and the changes that may come with it,” Raiders Business Manager Michael Scissons said in a prepared statement on Friday night.

“While we appreciate that you as fans may have questions regarding the latest update, due to the timing of this release, the Raiders will provide an additional update early next week once we have been able to meet and discuss as a staff. We thank you again for your patience as we work towards the 2020-21 season.”

Like the WHL, the Ontario Hockey League has yet to set a start date for this year.

They had hoped to start a shortened campaign on Feb. 4, but those plans were halted just before Christmas due to the lockdown that’s currently in place throughout the province.

Meanwhile, the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League is planning to resume play among their 12 Quebec-based clubs later this month after suspending their regular season on Dec. 1 due to the rise in COVID-19 cases.

The six Maritime teams in the league are still on hiatus.