WHL suspends operations amid coronavirus pandemic

The Red Deer Rebels had five games left in the WHL season

The Western Hockey League and the Canadian Hockey League have aligned with the NHL and are suspending the season for the time being, as a result of the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

According to several reports, the CHL held a meeting with commissioners of all three of its leagues and then informed the 60-member organizations of the decision Thursday afternoon, just hours after the NHL made the call to suspend play earlier in the day.

“Following consultation with medical professionals and meetings today among the CHL executive council, and regional league board of governors, the CHL announces that the balance of the 2019-20 season and all hockey activity shall be paused immediately until further notice,” a statement on the CHL website read.

WHL Commissioner Ron Robison also released a statement on the matter, later in the afternoon.

“The WHL takes the safety of our players, officials, staff, fans and everyone associated with the WHL very seriously. We will continue to monitor ongoing public health developments regarding COVID-19. Our goal is to return to play when it is safe and reasonable to do so,” he said.

“We thank WHL fans and partners for your patience and understanding as we navigate this unprecedented time.”

Rebels owner, GM and head coach Brent Sutter told the Red Deer Advocate Thursday that in a continually developing health crisis, the organization and league have to do what is best for the staff, fans, and players.

“The Red Deer Rebels are fully supportive of the decision made today collectively with the WHL and CHL to suspend play until further notice. The health and safety of our staff, players, guests and community, is of vital importance,” a statement from the team read.

Players are expected to remain in Red Deer for the time being but have been told not to attend the Centrium at this time. Rebels’ fans can expect updates on game-day and season tickets in the near future.

Several WHL teams play out of NHL arenas, including the Calgary Hitmen and Edmonton Oil Kings. The Red Deer Rebels were scheduled to visit Calgary and play the Hitmen at the Saddledome on Sunday afternoon.

In Oregon, where the Portland Winterhawks play, the state has issued a ban on gatherings of more than 250 people, meaning their games would have likely been played without fans.

The Everett Silvertips, amid an outbreak in Washington state, were also due to play without fans.

Late Wednesday, the NBA announced they would suspend the season after Rudy Gobert, a player for the Utah Jazz tested positive for the virus.

On Thursday, his teammate Donovan Mitchell also tested positive. Major League Baseball and the NHL also followed suit with a league-wide suspension of operations Thursday.

Some minor sports have also been affected, with the Alberta Colleges Athletic Association FUTSAL Championships, which were due to start Friday, being canceled.

The United States Hockey League, a junior league based in the northern U.S., has also suspended its season, and the U18 World Hockey Championships set for Ann Arbor, Mich., were also canceled.



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