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BREAKING: Kelowna and Kamloops approved as WHL hubs

The Western Hockey League's B.C. Division will begin play on March 26, 2021 following establishment of two hockey hub centres in Kelowna and Kamloops.
Image Credit: Kamloops Blazers
March 02, 2021 - 3:43 PM

The Western Hockey League’s season will be able to get underway following approval of hub cities in Kelowna and Kamloops by the provincial health office.

The league made the announcement this afternoon, March 2, in a media release. It means the WHL’s B.C. Division will be able to open their season on Friday, March 26.

"The WHL appreciates the cooperation we have received from the provincial health officer and health officials in B.C. as we work toward a safe return to play in the B.C. Division,” WHL commissioner Ron Robison said in the release.

“With our extensive protocols and the necessary approvals now in place, we are looking forward to play beginning in the Kamloops and Kelowna hubs," he said. "We are excited to now have all four WHL Divisions returning to play as it was our objective from the onset to deliver a season for all of our players."

Five B.C. hockey clubs will make up the division, including the Kamloops Blazers, Kelowna Rockets, Prince George Cougars, Vancouver Giants and Victoria Royals.

A cross-hub centre model will be used to play all B.C. Division games within the two division hub centres.

The Kelowna Rockets will be based in Kelowna along with the Victoria Royals, while the Kamloops Blazers, Prince George Cougars and Vancouver Giants will make Kamloops their hub home.

The league said a 24-game schedule for the B.C Division will be announced at a later date.

Players and staff will begin self-quarantining Saturday and then will report to their respective bubble on March 13, where they will be required to undergo COVID-19 testing upon arrival followed by an additional quarantine period.

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

The league said COVID-19 screening for all players, team staff and officials will also take place on a daily basis, including regular temperature screenings. Coaches will be required to wear masks at all times, including while conducting practice and while behind the bench during games.

The start of the 2020-21 WHL season was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Play finally began Feb. 26 with the league's Alberta-based teams.

Teams in the U.S. Division are scheduled to start March 19 while the East Division, with teams based in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, has been cleared to play in a bubble environment.

The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League was the only league under the Canadian Hockey League to start its season at its traditional time, but pandemic-related issues have caused several interruptions.

The Ontario Hockey League has yet to announce plans for a season.

No spectators will be allowed in either Prospera Place in Kelowna or the Sandman Centre in Kamloops, so fans will have to catch the action on WHL Live or CHL TV.

— With files from The Canadian Press

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