Victoria Royals will hit the road for WHL pre-season

There is no rest for the weary in the ice wars.

On a day when the 2018-19 pro hockey season officially concluded in Boston, the junior version of the sport already began looking ahead to next season.

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The Western Hockey League unveiled its pre-seson schedule Wednesday. It includes 60 games from Aug. 27 to Sept. 15.

The Victoria Royals will keep alive their streak of never having hosted a WHL pre-season game. The Royals will play five exhibition games, all on the road.

“It’s been a combination of things,” said Victoria GM Cam Hope. “[Mainly], teams don’t want to come over on the ferry for a one-off exhibition.”

Pre-season WHL tournaments continue to be a popular way for teams to examine talent by lining up a series of games all in one venue to save money. There will be four this year in Langley, Everett, Tri-City and Regina.

The Royals will take part in the Vancouver Giants’ pre-season tournament at the Langley Events Centre, meeting the defending B.C. Division and Western Conference-champion Giants on Sept. 6, the Kamloops Blazers on Sept. 7 and Everett Silvertips on Sept. 8.

“We looked at hosting a tournament this year,” said Hope.

“But other clubs have gobbled up the tournaments and we’re waiting for an opening [for future years]. But, it all works out well for us, regardless.”

Hockey in August doesn’t seem right but that’s when it begins for the Royals as they will be in Kelowna on Aug. 30 to play the Rockets and in Kamloops on Aug. 31 to take on the Blazers to start the exhibition campaign before ending it in Langley at the Giants’ tournament.

There will be six games in five venues outside of WHL markets with the Prince George Cougars and Edmonton Oil Kings meeting twice at the Encana Events Centre in Dawson Creek on Sept. 12 and Sept. 14. The Oil Kings will also play the Calgary Hitmen Sept. 7 at the Seven Chiefs Sportsplex on the Tsuut’ina Nation in Alberta.

Other out-of-market WHL exhibitions include the Winnipeg Ice and Brandon Wheat Kings meeting in Portage la Prairie, Man.

The WHL regular-season schedule will be released later this month.

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