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UPDATE: WHL releases pandemic-shortened B.C. Division schedule

Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Kelowna Rockets
March 09, 2021 - 12:05 PM

The president and general manager of the Kelowna Rockets says they'll be pandemic-ready later this month when the B.C division hits the ice again.

The WHL released the new schedule for the B.C. division today, March 9.  Two games will mark opening night on Friday, March 26 in the B.C. division. The Kelowna Rockets will host the Victoria Royals at Kelowna's Prospera Place, while the Kamloops Blazers are home against the Vancouver Giants at Kamloops's Sandman Centre.

"The most important thing is we've gone through the whole procedure of being safe and now the players are going through the quarantine period, which is a commitment on their shoulders as they've got to follow the line too," Rockets president Bruce Hamilton told iNFOnews. "The success of being able to play the whole 24 games will ride on their shoulders (whether or not) they look after themselves."

iNFOnews.ca asked Hamilton whether he believes the players are in tune with the necessary COVID-19 precautions.

"Oh I think that they know... they've been in touch with players in Alberta, Saskatchewan's going to start up next week and (then there's) the U.S. teams. They have all been in contact (with the other teams) to find out what's going on and what it's like. They're going to find as excited as they are to get back playing, there's some heaviness ahead," Hamilton said.

As part of the league's COVID-19 protocols, a news release today said "enhanced screening" will be carried out daily on all players, their billets, team staff and officials, and will include regular temperature screenings and symptom monitoring.

And as for the details involving in hosting other teams, Hamilton says both the Rockets and the Kamloops Blazers, which are hubs for B.C. play, will do a good job.

"It can't be an army camp for these guys, there's got to be some some fun attached to it for them... because of the restrictions you're limited where you can go but we've got to find some ways to break it up for them," he said. "(We're) just trying to find out how long a rope we can have. It's pretty clear right now the rope is pretty short but we're waiting to see if there isn't an opportunity to get them to some outside spaces where they can move around a bit... parks or things like that.

"Right now, it's pretty clear (the teams will move) from the rink to the hotel or from the rink to the billet. There's no McDonalds in between."

Hamilton also said a limited number of scouts will be allowed in the arenas, and he hopes a 24 game schedule will give the NHL enough of a sense of what their players offer.

He said resumption of play in the B.C. division marks a return to relevance for both his and the other B.C. teams.

"Everyone is excited inside organizations, I don't know how much excitement is outside because no one can come (to watch in the arenas)... (we've) basically been underground for 12 months now," he said. "At least people are going to be talking about us in the media, and players will get some exposure."

The five B.C. Division teams will each play a 24-game schedule, which includes six games against each opponent.

You can see the league's full schedule here.

— This story was updated at 3:48 p.m. Tuesday, March 9, 2021 to include comment from the Kelowna Rockets president.

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