Western Hockey League planning to start next season Dec. 4

CALGARY — The Western Hockey League intends to open its regular season Dec. 4. pending approval from provincial and state health authorities.

The WHL halted the 2019-20 regular season March 12 because of the advancing COVID-19 virus.

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The league intends the 22 teams in Canada's four western provinces and two northwestern U.S. states play a full 68-game schedule in 2020-21.

The WHL had hoped to start the season Oct. 2 with training camps commencing Sept. 15.

Team and public safety, spectator capacity and border crossings are still issues to be worked out in the league's six provincial and state jurisdictions.

"Regardless of our start date, the WHL is committed to playing a full regular season and playoffs in 2020-21," WHL commissioner Rob Robison said Thursday in a statement.

"In our discussions with the government and health authorities, it has become apparent that additional time is required to ensure we can return to play in a safe and responsible manner.

"Our WHL health and safety protocols have been well received by the health authorities but we have several key issues that we will need to reach a resolution on in the coming months."

Robison said in June that its clubs need arenas at least half full of spectators in order to operate financially next season. Major junior hockey is ticket-driven and doesn't have a lucrative television rights deal as a backup, the commissioner said at the time.

The Ontario Hockey League said Wednesday that it intends to start its season Dec. 1.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 6, 2020.

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