The COVID-19 pandemic has caused disruption to sporting events across the globe as well as here at home in Saskatchewan. The Western Hockey League (WHL) is one of those organizations that had to think differently and do differently in order to get in any league play in the 2020-2021 season.
But the WHL has made it happen safely by making Regina a hub city with the help of the WHL Hub Oversight Committee (WHOC). The WHL instituted weekly PCR testing of players, coaches and team personnel, and testing guidelines were in place prior to bringing into the team environment. They have also developed strict protocols for hub and non-hub contacts to minimize any close contacts or potential exposures. To help ensure the teams stay isolated from each other, each of the seven Eastern Division teams have dedicated floors at the University of Regina campus where they are separated from each other as well as non-hub supports. Finally, the WHL has enacted rigorous cleaning, masking and social distancing protocols for both on and off the ice.
It took dedicated effort by many to make this happen, including key players from the WHOC, SHA, and the Ministry of Health, helping to ensure that all of the hub’s plans were safe and abided by Saskatchewan’s Public Health Orders.
“There are strict COVID-19 guidelines and requirements in Saskatchewan that need to be followed to make this happen in advance and ongoing,” said Cara Benz Tramer, Director of Clinical Integration of the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) in Regina. “We were so impressed with how the WHL and REAL implemented them all on the recent walk-through of the hub sites.”
The SHA is one key advisory group on the WHOC, along with representatives of the WHL Operations and Officials, Ministry of Health Business Response Team and COVID Response Unit, the Regina Pats, and the Regina Exhibition Association Ltd (REAL).
“The WHL Hub Centre in Regina is a huge win for the WHL and couldn’t have been done without the support of the SHA, the WHOC and all of our partners” said WHL Commissioner Ron Robison. “This group has been instrumental in helping us navigate COVID-19 safely so that our players can get back on the ice and continue to develop at the highest level in the Canadian system.”
The WHL Hub Centre consists of the WHL’s seven East Division teams (Swift Current Broncos, Regina Pats, Moose Jaw Warriors, Saskatoon Blades, Prince Albert Raiders, Brandon Wheat Kings and Winnipeg ICE) playing 24 games each over a 48-day period. The first game was played on March 12, 2021.