WHL receives provincial approval to return to play in Alberta

WHL commisioner Ron Robison. (Aaron Bell/CHL Images)

The Western Hockey League has been granted approval from the government of Alberta and Alberta Health to return to play in the province, the league announced Thursday.

With the approval, the WHL's Alberta-based teams in the Central Division are now slated to open their seasons on Feb. 26.

“The WHL appreciates the support we have received from Alberta Health as we work towards a safe return to play in the province,” WHL Commissioner Ron Robison said in a press release. “With our extensive protocols and the necessary approvals now in place, we are looking forward to play getting underway in Alberta and allowing our players to continue their development at the highest level in the Canadian system.”

As part of the return-to-play agreement, all Central Division games during the 2020-21 regular season will be played exclusively in Alberta – with no cross-border travel.

Five WHL clubs operate out of Alberta and will form the Central Division: the Red Deer Rebels, Edmonton Oil Kings, Lethbridge Hurricanes, Medicine Hat Tigers and Calgary Hitmen.

The WHL says, as part of its plan, an extensive set of protocols will be implemented that feature self-quarantine procedures, weekly private PCR testing – in an effort to avoid straining public health resources – and daily, enhanced screening for players, staff and personnel.

When play resumes, no spectators will be allowed in arenas.

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