WHL U.S. Division to begin play on March 19

The Western Hockey League announced late Friday night that all five teams in their U.S. Division will begin their 24-game regular season slate on Friday, March 19.

The news comes after the state of Washington allowed the WHL to return to play earlier this week, which was initially reported by Andy Eide of ESPN 710 Seattle.

“The WHL has developed an extensive set of protocols to not only provide a safe environment for players and staff, but to protect residents of Washington in the community. Further details on these protocols will be announced at a later date,” the release said.

“As the WHL returns to play in Washington, no spectators will be permitted to enter WHL facilities.”

While that would allow the Everett Silvertips, Seattle Thunderbirds, Spokane Chiefs and Tri-City Americans to resume action, there was no mention in the release about the state of Oregon, which is where the Portland Winterhawks are located.

There has been no statement by the Winterhawks as of yet as to where their home games will be held, but Portland Tribute sports writer Paul Danzer tweeted on Friday night that all of their games will be on the road until further notice because of COVID-19 restrictions in Oregon.

The WHL had previously announced that the Central Division (which consists of Alberta teams) will begin play on Friday, Feb. 26.

No official announcements have been made about start dates for the B.C. and East Division.