Update: WHL announces agreement to resume play at the end of March in two “hub centres.”
Word the Western Hockey League (WHL) would resume operations in B.C. was welcomed by Ron Toigo, Vancouver Giants president, governor and majority owner.
“That was great news,” Toigo told the Langley Advance Times following a Monday statement by provincial Health Minister Adrian Dix, who said a plan had been approved in principle.
Toigo called the announcement by Dix “something we’ve been working on for several months.”
Toigo said a complete shutdown would have been “disastrous” for the players, adding COVID restrictions will make it an “expensive” season for the teams, who have been discussing costs with the province.
Team captain Alex Kannok Leipert said “all the guys were pumped.”
He described the team mood as a combination of happiness, excitement and relief.
March was shaping up as a “tough month,” said Kannok Leipert, with the players on the Langley-based team facing the prospect of watching WHL teams in other provinces return to the ice.
“It’s been 11 months of straight training,” is how Kannok Leipert described it.
“We were starting to doubt it, a little bit.”
Giants head coach Michael Dyck was cautiously optimistic, called the news “a step in the right direction,” while noting some details remained to be worked out.
Teams in the league’s other three divisions have already been cleared to play by state and provincial governments and public health authorities.
Later on Tuesday, the WHL announced it has been granted approval by the B.C. Provincial Health Office to play in two hub centres located in Kamloops and Kelowna, which will allow the WHL’s B.C. Division teams to open their season on Friday, March 26.
Vancouver Giants, Kamloops Blazers, and Prince George Cougars, and Vancouver Giants will be based in Kamloops, while the Kelowna Rockets and Victoria Royals will be based in Kelowna.
Players and staff from B.C. Division Clubs will begin self-quarantining on March 6 and then will report to their respective hub.
There will be enhanced screening and weekly testing for the coronavirus. No spectators will be permitted to enter WHL facilities.
“The WHL appreciates the cooperation we have received from the Provincial Health Officer and health officials in B.C.” commented WHL Commissioner Ron Robison.