Better late than never.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Western Hockey League owners/governors decided Thursday that the 2020-21 season — slated for an early October start — would be delayed until a Dec. 4 opening.
“There’s been a lot of discussion on different things,” said Rebels owner/governor/president/general manager and head coach Brent Sutter.
Rebels vice-president Merrick Sutter and WHL commissioner Rob Robson were in discussion with health officials last week and the information was passed on to league executives.
“All the governors talked and we made a decision that we would push the season back until December and see what happens from now until then,” said Brent Sutter.
“We were in contact with health officials within the four western provinces and the states of Washington and Oregon, and there was just no way we were going to be able to start until then (December) with any kind of attendance.
“We decided to push it back. A lot of leagues are doing that. Look at the American Hockey League did it . . . the NHL won’t start (the 2020-21 season) until December.”
The WHL is still hoping to playa 68-game schedule that would extend regular season play into the first week of May.
However, inter-conference play — never mind the annual visits of the American-based teams —might not occur until later in the season. Then there’s the question surrounding the amount of fans that will be allowed in the facilities.
“There’s a lot of moving parts,” said Sutter. “Teams might not even play within their own conference when we start the season, they will playing within their own province.”
The bottom line? Safety first.
“We’re listening to health officials and we’re focused on the health of everyone . . . fans, players, people working in the facilities,” said Sutter. “Every decision we make is based on that.”