The Red Deer Rebels are hopeful that a 24-game WHL season is on the horizon. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)

The Red Deer Rebels are hopeful that a 24-game WHL season is on the horizon. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)

Sutter says 24-game season ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ for WHL

Will they or won’t they, that is the question.

The Western Hockey League made another commitment late last week, to potentially play a 24-game game season.

The league previously “fully intended” to play a full 68-game season, followed by a plan to start the year on Jan. 8, before the latest announcement– a commitment to play a 24-game season at some point, assuming provincial health authority approval.

“The Western Hockey League is committed to providing a season for WHL players,” said WHL Commissioner Ron Robison in a press release Friday.

“This commitment ensures WHL players will receive the opportunity to compete at the highest level in the system and continue to pursue their hockey goals in the world’s finest development league for junior hockey players.”

The goal, at least at this point is to gain approval from the proper health authorities “soon” and hit the ice sometime in late February for a 24-game season.

In the league release, they said all schedule formats and models are being considered, which could include playing in a bubble in order to play hockey in 2021.

Read also:

Canada’s NHL franchises ready to get familiar with each other during 56-game sprint

Originally, the WHL had planned to keep teams playing with divisional boundaries, to reduce travel and COVID-19 exposure across borders.

It’s nowhere near ideal but needs to happen according to Red Deer Rebels Owner, GM and head coach Brent Sutter.

“Now we’re getting some light at the end of the tunnel, out west, here, that there’s an opportunity that we’re going to play a 24-game schedule, so that’s the decision that was made,” Sutter said.

“This isn’t happening without protocols in place that our health authorities and provincial governments haven’t signed off on. No matter how many games we play, there are going to be real strict protocols in place.

“That was all worked on with the committee that we’ve had in place with the league, working with the health authorities and the doctor we’ve hired to help us.”

At one point earlier this year, the league was bullish on having at least some fans in seats. They said it was a necessity if they hoped to have a season. Sutter said health authorities were simply never on board with that plan.

“We’ve known all along, that when we had a chance to start up that we weren’t going to be able to have fans. We’ve known that since almost the beginning. Our health ministers and health authorities have told us pretty well from the get-go,” Sutter said.

“Does it have a huge economical impact? Absolutely. At the end of the day, you still have to do what’s right for our game. You have to do what’s right for our players and what’s right for our communities and organizations. And our league. So all those things fall into place.”

The Ontario Hockey League had plans to start on Feb. 4, but that has since been delayed because of lockdown measures in the province.

The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League is expected to resume play on Jan. 22, with protective environments in four different cities.



Send your news tips

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Red Deer households have until the end of January to exchange their waste carts for a different size at no cost. (Advocate file photo).
Waste cart exchange fee kicks in on Feb. 1 in Red Deer

Red Deerians have a couple more weeks to exchange their waste carts… Continue reading

Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau responds to a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, Dec. 11, 2020. A British Columbia company that feeds food waste to insects to produce pet food has received $6 million from the federal government for it’s new state-of-the-art plant just north of Calgary. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle
B.C. company turning fly larvae into pet food gets $6M in federal funds

Fly larvae fed a mixture of food waste and agricultural byproducts

FortisBC is reporting record electricity usage as temperatures spike. (File photo
AltaLink seeks to refund extra $350 million over three years to Alberta customers

AltaLink submits proposal to Alberta Utilities Commission

Annamie Paul, leader of The Green Party of Canada and byelection candidate for the Toronto Centre riding, walks back to her car after greeting supporters on election night, October 26, 2020. Paul has spent most of the past 10 months holed up in her apartment, just like you. But that stationary, pandemic-induced state belies the sharp pivot her party is making as it manoeuvres to break the tether of a one-issue party and reframe itself as a fresh inheritor of Canada’s social justice tradition. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
Annamie Paul charts new course for Green party — through crowded waters

Paul’s calls for guaranteed livable income, universal pharmacare and child care, and free post-secondary education

Justin Kripps of Summerland and his team have competed in Olympic action and World Cup competitions in bobsleigh. (Jason Ransom-Canadian Olympic Comittee).
QUIZ: Are you ready for some winter sports?

It’s cold outside, but there are plenty of recreation opportunities in the winter months

Opinion
Opinion: A trend that should keep Freeland up at night

With a raft of fresh economic forecasts and a promised $100 billion… Continue reading

A yard in Gascoyne, ND., which has hundreds of kilometres of pipes stacked inside it that are supposed to go into the Keystone XL pipeline, should it ever be approved are shown on April 22, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Alex Panetta
TC Energy decarbonization response to Keystone setback unlikely to sway ESG investors

Plans announced for the Keystone XL project to achieve net zero emissions

President-elect Joe Biden waves to reporters as walks out of The Queen theater Monday, Jan. 18, 2021, in Wilmington, Del. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Joe Biden to propose 8-year citizenship path for immigrants

An estimated 11 million people living in the U.S. without legal status

This screen grab from a Zoom call shows new New York Mets general manager Jared Porter Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. (Zoom via AP)
Report: Mets GM admits explicit texts to female reporter

Another embarrassing development for the Mets

A man wearing a protective mask to help curb the spread of the coronavirus walks near banners of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021. The Tokyo Olympics are to open in six months on July 23. Interestingly, Tokyo organizers have no public program planned to mark the milestone. There is too much uncertainty for that right now. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
Tokyo Olympics Q&A: 6 months out and murmurs of cancellation

Instead of a countdown celebration, the focus is on COVID-19

Fashion mogul Peter Nygard is shown during a bail hearing in Winnipeg on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in this courtroom sketch. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tadens Mpwene - POOL
Canadian fashion mogul seeking bail on U.S. charges of sex trafficking, racketeering

Lawyers for the Attorney General of Canada say Nygard has a history of not showing up to court

Montreal Canadiens down Edmonton Oilers 3-1, sweep series

Montreal Canadiens down Edmonton Oilers 3-1, sweep series

Most Read