WHL officially cancels remainder of regular season

The Red Deer Rebels had 5 games left in the season

The WHL has officially put a stop to the remainder of the regular season.

The CHL, with overseas the WHL, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and Ontario Hockey League, held a conference call Tuesday and made the decision to end the regular season amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The WHL also held a meeting with the Board of Governors and agreed, with the hopes to still hold the 2020 WHL playoffs down the road.

“The WHL takes the safety of our players, officials, staff, fans, and everyone associated with the WHL very seriously,” said WHL Commissioner Ron Robison in a press release. “Given the ongoing public health developments regarding COVID-19, we deemed it necessary to cancel the remaining games on the 2019-20 WHL Regular Season Schedule.

“We will continue to monitor ongoing public health developments regarding COVID-19. We will make every effort possible to conduct the 2020 WHL Playoffs at a later date. We thank WHL fans and partners for your patience and understanding during these challenging times.”

To determine the final WHL standings, the league used win percentage, meaning the Red Deer Rebels finished 17th with a 24-33-3-3 record and a 0.429%.

Rebels owner, GM and head coach Brent Sutter said even from the day the league was put on pause last week, so much has changed.

“It’s been a process through all this. Everything being determined by what’s going on. At that time when we put the regular season on pause, it was not where it’s at today. Things are changing drastically by the hour,” Sutter said.

The bench boss, who also had to give the news to his players, said it was a tough message to deliver, especially to 20-year-olds Cam Hausinger and captain Ethan Sakowich.

“It was hard on the kids, it was hard on everyone. Twenty-year-olds, just for their junior careers to end like it has, so abruptly, is tough. There’s nothing anybody can do about it. We don’t control it.”

On the weekend, the league took a dramatic step and sent players back to their hometowns, after originally asking them to stay in the city of the team they play for.

The announcement Wednesday was not an unexpected one after the Federal Government took dramatic steps to limit travelers from coming to Canada. Although it didn’t initially include U.S. citizens, European travelers were barred from the country and considering the CHL had directed European players to return home, the league could not continue moving forward with the status quo. Canada and the U.S.A. agreed to limit travel by citizens in the two countries on Wednesday.

The WHL still hopes to get in some sort of playoff schedule, before the Memorial Cup that was to be played on May 22-31.

With the Memorial Cup set to be played in Kelowna, B.C., their provincial government has mandated no sporting events can happen with more than 50 people. An order that is in effect until the end of May. The Federal Government is also recommending against gatherings of over 50 people for at least eight weeks, that was another hit to any playoffs being played.

Email sports tips to Byron Hackett

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