The Silvertips’ Cole Fonstad attempts a shot with as the Chiefs’ Mason Beaupit defends the net during a game on May 7, 2021, at Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

The Silvertips’ Cole Fonstad attempts a shot with as the Chiefs’ Mason Beaupit defends the net during a game on May 7, 2021, at Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

WHL plans full season at full capacity in 2021-22

The Silvertips will begin a 68-game schedule on Oct. 1 and playoffs will return to the old format.

EVERETT — The Everett Silvertips are set to begin their 2021-22 season on Oct. 1, with a complete 68-game schedule and Angel of the Winds Arena open to full capacity.

The WHL concluded its annual general meeting Tuesday, and upon its conclusion the league announced its intention to return to near normalcy in 2021-22 after the 2020-21 season was severely affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

The pandemic forced the cancellation of the 2020 playoffs, and the 2020-21 season was restricted to 24-game schedule with all games played within division without fans in the stands, as well as without playoffs.

However, the league is anticipating health restrictions being lifted in all of its jurisdictions in time for the 2021-22 season to conduct a full schedule, with stands open fully to spectators. The Oct. 1 start date is about a week later than normal, while an April 3 ending date is about two weeks later than usual.

One change in the schedule for the upcoming season is that there will be no contests between Western Conference and Eastern Conference teams. Therefore, Everett will only face teams in the U.S. and B.C. Divisions.

Teams will begin announcing their home-opening dates Wednesday. The preseason schedule will be announced next Monday and the Western Conference regular season schedule will be released next Wednesday.

The league also announced it was scrapping the pod playoff system it’s used the past seven years and switching back to its previous format.

Before 2015 the league used the conference format, where a conference’s two division winners earned the top two playoff seeds, then the six teams with the next-best records filled out the bracket, with the teams seeded according to record.

In 2015 the league switched to the pod system, in which the top three teams in each division were placed in a pod along with a wild-card entrant. The system was designed to take advantage of divisional rivalries and decrease travel in the first round, but it also frequently resulted in top teams squaring off in the second round. Now the league is switching back to the conference format.

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