Regina to serve as WHL East Division hub for Saskatchewan, Manitoba teams

The WHL announced Friday that it has been granted approval by public health officials from the Saskatchewan government to serve as a hub centre for Saskatchewan and Manitoba teams. Keith Hershmiller / Regina Pats

Regina will act as a hub centre for Saskatchewan and Manitoba teams in the Western Hockey League for the 2020-21 season.

The WHL announced Friday it was given the OK from public health officials from the Saskatchewan government and will begin play on March 12.

“The WHL appreciates the cooperation we have received from both the Governments of Saskatchewan and Manitoba as we work towards a safe return to play in the East Division,” said Ron Robison, WHL commissioner.

“With our extensive protocols and the necessary approvals now in place, we are looking forward to play getting underway in Regina and allowing our players to continue their development at the highest level in the Canadian system.”

Read more: Western Hockey League U.S. Division approved to start 2020-21 season

Story continues below advertisement

The East Division will include seven WHL teams – the Regina Pats, Saskatoon Blades, Moose Jaw Warriors, Prince Albert Raiders, Swift Current Broncos, Brandon Wheat Kings and Winnipeg Ice.

All games, of a 24-game regular-season schedule, will be played at the Brandt Centre in Regina. Practices will talk place at the Co-operators Centre.

The schedule will be announced at a later date.

“The WHL has developed an extensive set of protocols and believe the protective Hub environment will provide a high standard of safety, for not only players and staff, but the Regina community at large,” read in its Friday press release.

“WHL players and staff from Saskatchewan and Manitoba based Clubs will begin self-quarantining on February 20 and then will report to the WHL Hub Center in Regina on February 27, where they will be required to undergo COVID-19 testing upon arrival followed by an additional quarantine period.

Read more: Alberta-based WHL teams receive approval to play condensed season

“Players and staff will then undergo a second COVID-19 test before being permitted to engage in any team activity.”

The release said teams have committed to providing private PCR testing through DynaLIFE Medical Labs, “to ensure no additional strain is placed on public health.”

Story continues below advertisement

Players are going to be tested when they join their team and once more before engaging in any team activity.

“DynaLIFE’s PCR testing is considered a gold standard for COVID-19 testing, and was utilized in Edmonton during the NHL’s Stanley Cup Playoffs and the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship,” the release read.

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus: Western Hockey League teams still waiting, weighing options' Coronavirus: Western Hockey League teams still waiting, weighing options
Coronavirus: Western Hockey League teams still waiting, weighing options – Jan 13, 2021

PCR testing will be provided weekly, and if one or more players test positive for COVID-19 at any point, the team will be required to suspend its activities for at least 14 days.

The WHL said enhanced screening will take place on a daily basis for players, team staff and officials, which will include regular temperature screenings and symptom monitoring through the WHL Athlete RMS Mobile Application.

Players will have to wear masks at all times with the exception of when participating in games and practices.

Story continues below advertisement

Coaches are required to wear masks at all times while conducting practices and behind the bench during games.

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

No fans will be allowed inside the Brandt Centre for games, but the WHL said it will be launching a brand new livestreaming service. More details will be announced soon.

The WHL will have three divisions ready to open the regular season starting with the Central Division, which begins on Feb. 26. The U.S. Division will begin on March 19.

The WHL says it is still waiting for approval from the Health Authority in B.C. to announce the start of a B.C. division.

Sponsored content