Victoria Royals and rest of WHL B.C. Division still waiting to come in from the cold

The Western Hockey League’s B.C. Division, which includes the Victoria Royals, is now the only division left out in the cold.

The government of Saskatchewan gave the go-ahead Friday for the five teams in that province, and two from Manitoba, to play in a single-site bubble in Regina beginning March 12.

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“The WHL appreciates the co-operation we have received from both the governments of Saskatchewan and Manitoba as we work towards a safe return to play in the East Division,” WHL commissioner Ron Robison said in a statement.

“We are looking forward to play getting underway in Regina and allowing our players to continue their development.”

The East Division’s followed earlier announcements that the five Alberta teams will begin play Feb. 26, in a travel format with no fans in the venues, and the U.S. Division will start on March 19 in a format to be decided. Each team will play 24 games and there will be no playoffs. That leaves only the B.C. Division.

“The WHL continues to work with government health authorities in British Columbia to establish a start date,” the WHL said in a statement.

There has been speculation that the B.C. Division will play in two bubbles, without fans, with the Royals and host Rockets based in Kelowna and the Vancouver Giants, Prince George Cougars and host Blazers based in Kamloops.

“We have received emails about thoughts that they [WHL] have had about different types of hubs. I haven’t seen that in detail yet,” B.C. health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said last week.

“Absolutely, I want to work with the WHL so that we can salvage a spring season for them.”

WHL players and staff from Saskatchewan and Manitoba teams will begin self- quarantining on Feb. 20 and report to the WHL hub centre in Regina on Feb. 27. They will be tested for COVID-19 upon arrival followed by an additional quarantine period. A second test will be required before training begins.

The WHL said it will implement an ongoing weekly private testing program. If a WHL team has one or more players or staff test positive for COVID-19 at any point in the season, the team must suspend its activities for 14 days.

The WHL haled play in March in the final week of the 2019-20 regular season and the playoffs were scrubbed.

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