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WHL commits to 24-game season; still needs approval from health authorities

CALGARY — The Western Hockey League says major junior hockey will still be played this season.
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CALGARY — The Western Hockey League says major junior hockey will still be played this season.

The WHL — one of three leagues in the 60-team Canadian Hockey League — announced Friday that its board of governors has committed to play a 24-game season for 2020-21.

The start date for the season will be determined once final approval has been received from the health authorities in each provincial and state jurisdiction, saying in a release that: "it is anticipated the approvals will be received soon." 

The WHL had hoped to start its season in January before more delays postponed an already late start to the campaign.

The 22-team league has clubs in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C., as well as a U.S. Division featuring five teams in Oregon and Washington state.

"The Western Hockey League is committed to providing a season for WHL players," WHL commissioner Ron Robison said in a release. 

"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 Ontario Hockey League and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League are still planning to complete their seasons despite uncertainty. 

The OHL targeted Feb. 4 as a start date but is on hold again following a recent provincial lockdown.

The QMJHL was the only one of three leagues in the CHL to have started a 2020-21 season. But play was suspended Dec. 1, with the league saying it hopes to return with its 12 Quebec teams playing in four markets in late January. No date has been set for the return of the QMJHL's six teams in Atlantic Canada. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published January 8, 2020.

The Canadian Press