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Western Hockey League planning for October return

Saskatoon Blades hope to start season on time
WATCH: Saskatoon Blades hope to start season on time.

The Western Hockey League is planning to forge ahead with a full schedule in the fall despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The WHL unveiled their return to play protocol on Wednesday following their annual general meeting, and they’re hoping to drop the puck on the 2020-2021 season in October.

The league has targeted Friday, Oct. 2 for their season openers if they can get the blessing of government and health officials. Regardless of when the season begins, the league is committed to play a full 68 game schedule.

READ MORE: Manitobans shut out in first round of WHL Bantam Draft for 1st time in decade

The WHL has appointed a special task force in each of their provincial and state jurisdictions to work with health officials to get players safely back on the ice with fans in the stands. The task force would ensure the safety of players, officials, and staff, and also determine a safe spectator capacity for each of the league’s arenas.

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The Wayne Fleming Arena, which is the temporary home of the Winnipeg Ice, had a seating capacity of around 1,600 last season for their inaugural year in the city.

“The WHL is a spectator-driven league,” the WHL stated in a media release.

“And the welcoming back of WHL fans is vital to a successful return to hockey for all 22 WHL member clubs.”

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The Western Hockey League suspended their season in mid-March because of the coronavirus, and cancelled their entire playoffs less than two weeks later.

Measures being taken at Bell MTS Place over fear of the spread of COVID-19
Measures being taken at Bell MTS Place over fear of the spread of COVID-19