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WSHL pulls plug on 2020-21 season

Tyler Waugh

The Hinton Timberwolves were just about to start its playoffs when the Western States Hockey League WSHL cancelled the remainder of the 2019-2020 season due to COVID-19.

News from the league this week means the squad is going to have to wait a little longer than hoped before it’s next run to a postseason shot at the Thorne Cup.

The WSHL announced May 26 that it is going dormant for the 2020-21, citing continued safety and logistical concerns, as well as liability, related to COVID.

“The majority of the variables which impact our sport and participation are still in effect, and will continue to be for an indefinite period of time,” reads a press release from the league.

“Given that the WSHL has over 300 international players on its teams, plays regular season games internationally, has over 500 players living with our gracious host families, has bus travel to games that can exceed 12 hours, and the inability to social distance and wear medical type facemasks in training and/or game situations, the medical reasons alone make it a major safety issue. Additionally, the logistics of operation, in uncertain times, is an unfathomable task for each team to undertake, as well as at a league level. The obvious potential liability for team owners in the face of COVID-19 requires significant consideration.”

The league went on to say that very few ice rinks are open across Canada and the United States and tryouts cannot be held. With that said, teams need to continue to recruit, adding payroll and other expenses without any knowledge 

Currently, across Canada and the United States, very few ice rinks are open, and tryouts cannot be held. The WSHL release stated that, even if they were open, the tryout would be minimized due to the governmental restrictions over crowd control. Nonetheless teams need to continue to recruit, which creates payroll and expenses, without any assured knowledge that the 2020-2021 season will start on-time, or start at all.  

“Medical predictions indicate the likelihood of a resurgence of COVID-19 as the winter months approach. Given the current status of closed borders, it would seem optimistic, at best, to project that the required number of players, for summer tryout camps or fall training camps, would be able to lawfully attend,” reads the release.  

“As important is the very recent announcements by several universities and colleges, even minor pro leagues that likely they will not participate in the 2020-2021 season either which impacts the players advancing to higher levels without recruiting being done at the higher levels.”

The league said that operating in this financial climate could easily result in failure, based on potential losses or inability to generate ticket sales, sponsorship or advertising dollars. The aforementioned revenue streams are crucial to the success and sustainability of WSHL member clubs, and junior hockey clubs around the globe.

The press release issued by the league on behalf of the board of governors went on to say that it will immediately start preparing for a return in the 2021 season.

“This is the most burdensome and painful decision ever made at the WSHL Board of Governors level, however, we strongly feel that continuing operations in the current climate is not safe or conducive to the success of our member players, nor teams,” the release concluded.