With the announcement from the Western Hockey League Board of Governors yesterday that the WHL Regular Season is scheduled to open on Friday, January 8, 2021, we caught up with Rockets President and General Manager Bruce Hamilton to talk about the news.
Hamilton, who was re-elected as Chairman of WHL Board of Governors in June, says that the start date gives both fans and players a sense of optimism.
“I think it gives some clarity for our fans and most importantly for our players when our hope is to get started,” said Hamilton. “Once again, a lot of this will depend on the health boards. In particular, here in British Columbia, Dr. Bonnie Henry will have a significant influence on it.”
Hamilton says that some regions in the WHL territory will be cleared to play by then, the time between now and the date of January 8, 2021, will give the league time to work through those challenges that they are facing in the other territories.
“In our league, Manitoba and Saskatchewan are prepared to get going even earlier, so they’ll be ready to go by then. It’ll be British Columbia, Alberta and the American Division waiting to see what approval we get. It’s a few months out, hopefully, things calm down and there’s some movement towards getting people back in facilities so we have an opportunity to run our business.”
When it comes to the European players, Hamilton is hopeful that they’ll be able to join their respective teams. Pavel Novak and Michael Krutil were both drafted in last week’s 2020 NHL Draft.
“Hopefully we can get them here. Right now the challenge is to get American and European players visas, understandably the government of Canada has really slowed that down. Both Novak and Krutil will more than likely be on the Czech Republic’s World Junior Team in Edmonton, so we hope that as soon as the Championship is done they’ll be allowed to come to Kelowna and join our team, that’ll be a work in process.”
Hamilton finished up by thanking the Rockets fans, while also saying that he’s excited to have a firm date to start the season.
“We really appreciate the patience of our fans and our season ticket holders, we can’t wait to get started. In saying that, we need to start when it makes sense for the players and fans health. It has to be a decision that works business-wise also, we’re like many others out there who have been shut down, we’re eagerly awaiting that window to get our business back to somewhat normalcy.”