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Western Hockey League announces start date for 2021-22 season, return to former playoff format

A pre-Christmas staple in the Western Hockey League is taking a one-year hiatus.

On Tuesday, as the WHL’s annual general meeting concluded, the league announced its opening date for the 2021-22 season, a return to a familiar playoff format and, interestingly, news that the upcoming season won’t feature any cross-conference play during the regular season.

Some teams make it an annual habit to swing through the opposing conference in December, including the Kelowna Rockets.

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In fact, while it doesn’t happen often, it wasn’t out of place to see two teams from one division making the same trip at roughly the same time.

Long trips usually help junior teams bond, and especially so if they have a successful and winning journey.

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But for this season, the league announced that “the 2021-22 regular-season schedule will not feature any interlocking games between the Eastern Conference and Western Conference.”

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Rolling along, the league said the 2021-22 regular season will start Friday, Oct. 1, and will end, Sunday, April 3 – with the anticipated lifting of health restrictions in all jurisdictions, it noted.

Teams are expected to announce their home-opening dates beginning June 16. The preseason schedule will be announced on Monday, June 21.

The Western Conference’s regular-season schedule will be announced on Wednesday, June 23, with the Eastern Conference regular-season schedule slated to be announced later on.

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The league says the playoffs are scheduled to begin Friday, April 8, with the reintroduction of the conference playoff format.

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All series will be a best-of-seven format, with the division leaders in each conference receiving the top-two playoff seeds. The remaining six playoff spots per conference – third through eighth — will be determined by points.

For the second round, teams will be reseeded according to regular-season points. The playoffs will conclude with the league championship, May 20-30.

The conference playoff format was last used during the 2014 playoffs, with the division playoff format in place since 2015.

For more about the Western Hockey League, visit their website.

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