WHL season suspended ‘until further notice’

The Silvertips’ regular season is on hold because of the threat of the coronavirus

The Western Hockey League on Thursday suspended its season in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

All hockey activities, including practices and meetings, are prohibited until next Tuesday morning, Everett Silvertips general manager Garry Davidson said.

The commissioners of the three organizations that make up the Canadian Hockey League — Ron Robison of the WHL, David Branch of the Ontario Hockey League and Gilles Courtes of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League — met Thursday with CHL president Dan McKenzie and determined the season would be temporarily suspended.

“Following consultation with medical professionals and meetings today with the CHL Board of Directors, it was determined that all hockey activity in the WHL will be paused until further notice,” the WHL said in a statement.

“Our goal is to return to play when it is safe and reasonable to do so,” WHL commissioner Ron Robison said in the same statement.

Darren Dreger, a reporter for TSN, reported that CHL players will be allowed to return to their homes, but no Silvertips went home, Davidson said. Everett’s players are being advised to stay with their billet families and “hang low,” he said.

The Silvertips practiced Thursday morning but did not travel to Kennewick as originally planned. Everett was scheduled to play at Tri-City on Friday night, at Portland on Saturday and back at Tri-City on Sunday. The Silvertips have five games remaining in the regular season. They are one point behind first-place Portland in the U.S. Division and have clinched a playoff spot.

It’s not certain whether the suspension of play will shorten the season.

Bruce Hamilton, the president and general manager of the Kelowna Rockets, the host team for the 2020 Memorial Cup, told the Vancouver Province that preparations for the tournament are “rolling full speed ahead.” The Memorial Cup, scheduled for May 22-31, is the CHL’s annual four-team championship tournament that includes the winner of each league, as well as the host team.

Hamilton said Kelowna is looking into the availability of Prospera Place, the Rockets’ home arena, in June, if necessary.

The announcement of the league pausing play came a day after the Silvertips announced they would play their remaining regular-season home game, on March 20, without fans after Washington Gov. Jay Inslee banned all gatherings, including sporting events, of more than 250 people in Snohomish, King and Pierce counties..

The suspension of play in the WHL comes after several professional sports leagues, including the NHL, Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer, did the same Thursday. The NBA suspended its season Wednesday night after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus.

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