WHL owners are prepared to lose money in order to salvage a mini-season.

In June of last year, the WHL announced that to start a season the league, in order to operate, would need its arenas filled at least to 50 per cent capacity.

Obviously, a lot has changed in the last eight months as the COVID-19 virus has intensified immensely.

After considering all options, the owners will take a huge financial hit once or if they get the green light to play a 24-game season.

“They (owners) are shouldering the entire cost. When the players come to Prince George they will be put up with billet families, which we pay for. There’s a tremendous amount of PPE (personal protective equipment) and testing that we are on the hook for and assuming that we are going into a bubble-type concept, wherever that may be, there will likely be hotel rooms, meal costs, player equipment, and staffing,” said Cougars Vice-President of Business Andy Beesley in a zoom call with the media this week.

Will the Cougars even play in PG in the 2020-21 season should there be one?

Bruce Hamilton, the chairman of the WHL’s board of governors and the owner/general manager of the Kelowna Rockets, told Travis Lowe of CHBC-TV in Kelowna that the league “may look at some kind of a setup where we would move one or two teams into Kamloops and one team into (Kelowna) and then limit the travel.”

Gregg Drinnan, who arguably has covered the WHL longer and better than anyone else, reported in his column this week that “a source told Taking Note that one option that has been discussed would have the PG Cougars spend the season playing out of Kamloops, with the Victoria Royals doing the same out of Kelowna.

The Cougars head coach and general manager Mark Lamb stated during that zoom call that the players just want to hit the ice, wherever that may be and all options remain on the table.

“I think it’s wide open to see if we will be playing games here or on the road or in a bubble-format. We don’t have an exact date yet as to when we are going to start playing so that is still up in the air but we do have a commitment from the league that we do have a 24-game schedule,” said Lamb.

Beesley wasn’t surprised that the WHL announced an abbreviated season considering the schedule and start date are not known and that the current health restrictions have been extended to at least February 5th.

“It’s kind of saying we admit we don’t know when or how exactly it is going to happen, we just know it’s going to happen and even with no fans or ticket revenue the owners have agreed to make it happen.”

Beesley was happy that the league acknowledged the commitment to have a season even while knowing there are many details to work out.

Should the season officially start, he anticipates the games will be played on weekends.

“The answer is probably doubleheaders or three in three, obviously we are going to want to be as efficient as possible. The initial thoughts from the health authority are that they want us to have some space in between the weekends, so it’s unlikely we are going to have weekday games. The reason for that is it allows the teams to have their games on the weekends and if there are any medical issues or concerns there is a buffer of four or five days in between to allow for decisions to be made,” said Beesley.

We should have more clarity on the situation later this month.

Hamilton told Lowe that a new season “probably” wouldn’t get started “until the end of February, early March.”

The Rockets owner also stated “the 24-game season will probably take about 60 days to complete. Teams would have a 21-day or 28-day training camp that would include a quarantine period for all players.”

Hamilton also made it clear that the WHL will not be able to drop the puck on any date until the league gets approval from B.C. public health officials.

“It will all depend, as usual, on (provincial health officer) Dr Henry,” Hamilton said.

The NHL has started up and with this being mid-January, hockey fever is catching on again.

The WHL just wants to remain in the game by having an opportunity to play a game.


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Hartley Miller is the news and sports supervisor and morning news anchor for 94.3 the GOAT and Country 97.
He also is the 94.3 the Goat radio colour commentator for P.G. Cougars home games.
His column appears Fridays on myprincegeorgenow.com.
Send along a quote, note, or anecdote to hmiller@thegoatrocks.ca