The Western Hockey League is targeting Oct. 2 for the start of the 2020-21 season and intends to play a full 68-game schedule.
The league announced its plans Wednesday after holding its annual general meeting earlier in the day. The return-to-play plan “remains contingent on receiving the necessary approvals from government and health authorities in each of the six jurisdictions in WHL territory,” a statement from the league reads.
Following the conclusion of the WHL Annual General Meeting, the WHL has announced Return to Play Protocol for 2020-21.
— The WHL (@TheWHL) June 17, 2020
The WHL season and playoffs were postponed in March and later cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The league operates 22 teams across four provinces and two states and on Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the border between Canada and the U.S. would remain closed for non-essential travel until at least July 21.
As part of the league’s return-to-play plan, special task forces in each of the six regions the league operates in have been established “to work directly with government and health authorities to ensure the health and safety of WHL players, staff, officials and fans are a top priority.”
Wednesday’s announcement by the WHL follows similar announcements from the other two leagues in the CHL. On June 2, QMJHL commissioner Gilles Courteau announced the league is targeting a return on Oct. 1 with a full 68-game schedule and “a certain percentage of spectators” in the stands. OHL commissioner David Branch was less specific in a statement earlier this week, saying “We plan to drop the puck in the Fall and will follow the lead of government and public health agencies on when it is safe to get back on the ice.”
The WHL statement did not confirm whether or not fans would be allowed to attend games, only saying further discussions with local authorities are needed before a decision on that front can be made.