The WHL, like so many other sporting organizations, put its season on hold Thursday afternoon as the world works to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Each of the WHL’s 22 teams plays 68 regular-season games. As of now, there are a total of 54 games remaining on the schedule, which was to have ended on Sunday, March 22. The first round of the playoffs, which would have started with 16 teams, was to have started on Friday, March 27.
Now . . . who knows?
“Our goal,” a statement from the WHL read, “is to return to play when it is safe and reasonable to do so.”
Teams that were on the road were instructed to return to their home cities. All players were to return to their billets and remain there while awaiting word on what comes next.
The CHL, which encompasses the WHL, OHL and QMJHL, announced the shutting down of all three leagues on Thursday afternoon. That announcement came after the NHL announced that it was suspending play.
Later in the day, former NHL executive Brian Burke, now an analyst with Sportsnet, said that he would be surprised if the NHL was able to hand out the Stanley Cup this season.
Because of the way COVID-19 has spread and continues to do so, I am inclined to agree with Burke.
With the WHL, of course, it’s all about the Ed Chynoweth Cup, which goes to the playoff champion, and the Memorial Cup, which is to be played in Kelowna, from May 22 through May 31.
It is far too early to know what will happen next. Will those 54 regular-season games be played? What about the playoffs? Is there a Plan B . . . Plan C . . . Plan D?
What about the Memorial Cup, which is only a bit more than two months away? If you’re wondering what could happen between now and then, think about where we were two months ago — in mid-January — compared to now.
Regardless, Bruce Hamilton, the Rockets’ president and general manager, says it’s full speed ahead in Kelowna.
“We are still marching straight ahead,” Hamilton told Global News in Kelowna. “That’s been the marching orders from the CHL. That is still 10 weeks out. It’s a long ways away.”
If you are looking for a time element to all of this, Adam Silver, the NBA commissioner whose league suspended operation on Wednesday night, told Sports Illustrated on Thursday:
“This hiatus will most likely be at least 30 days. . . . Is there a protocol, with or without fans, in which we could resume play? It’s too early to tell.”
Anyway . . . could it be that the Victoria Royals’ 3-2 victory over the host Rockets on Wednesday night will have been the WHL’s last game of the 2019-20 season? If, indeed, that is the case, F Brayden Tracey of the Royals will have scored the season’s final goal, breaking a 2-2 tie at 11:22 of the third period.
And if you’re wondering, the Portland Winterhawks are atop the WHL’s overall standings at this point, which, I suppose, gives their fans bragging rights, at least for now.
Early Thursday evening, Hockey Canada announced that its board of directors had made the decision “to cancel all Hockey Canada-sanctioned activities, including our national championships, until further notice, effective Friday, March 13.”
I’m not sure if “cancel . . . until further notice” means postponed or cancelled. Either way, Canada’s arenas will be mostly dark for the foreseeable future.
BC Hockey issued a statement indicating that it supports “the leadership shown by Hockey Canada to suspend all hockey operations . . . and will be following the direction to suspend all BC Hockey games and events until further notice.”
In a later tweet, Hockey Alberta pointed out that Hockey Canada’s edict includes league games, playoffs, practices, camps and provincial, regional and national championships . . . at the minor, female, junior, senior and sledge levels.”
Hockey Canada’s decision brought an end to the U Cup, Canada’s university men’s and women’s championship, both of which had started in Halifax and Charlottetown, respectively, and were to have ended on Sunday.
Ken King, a longtime president and governor of the WHL’s Calgary Hitmen, died on Wednesday after a battle with cancer. He was 68. He was the vice-chair and chief executive officer of Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation, which owns the NHL’s Flames, CFL’s Stampeders, NLL’s Roughnecks and the Hitmen. . . . There is more right here.