Alberta-based WHL teams receive approval to play condensed season

Edmonton Oil Kings player Liam Keeler, rt, battles for the puck with Calgary Hitmen player Orca Wiesblatt during WHL (Western Hockey League) hockey action in Calgary, Alta., on Friday, Dec. 6, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Larry MacDougal

The Western Hockey League has received government approval to play a rejigged season in Alberta.

The league announced Thursday that its five clubs based in the province — the Red Deer Rebels, Edmonton Oil Kings, Lethbridge Hurricanes, Medicine Hat Tigers and Calgary Hitmen — will form a Central Division and play the entire 24-game season in Alberta, starting on Feb. 26.

Read more: WHL commits to playing 2020-21 season, start date to be determined

The 22-team WHL also has clubs in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and B.C., as well as a U.S. Division featuring five teams in Oregon and Washington state.

The league said in a statement that it’s still working to get approval to play from government and health authorities in those jurisdictions so start dates can be set for an East Division, B.C. Division and U.S. Division.

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Read more: Saskatchewan WHL teams, SJHL receiving funding from province

COVID-19 protocols will limit the Alberta-based teams to playing one opponent per week, with a five-day break before facing another club.

Testing will be conducted by a private company, and if a player or staff member tests positive for the virus, the team will be required to suspend operations for a minimum of 14 days.

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Coronavirus: Western Hockey League teams still waiting, weighing options – Jan 13, 2021

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