Thursday night is the start of a new Western Hockey League season as the puck drops at Rexall Place between the Edmonton Oil Kings and the Kootenay Ice (Shaw TV, 7 p.m.).
The highlights of the 47th WHL campaign include the 2012 Western Canada under-16 Challenge Cup, the 2012 Subway Super Series with the WHL hosting games in Vancouver (Nov. 14) and Victoria (Nov. 15), and the 2013 MasterCard Memorial Cup in Saskatoon (May. 17 to May 26).
And, in the foreseeable future, WHL commissioner Ron Robison is bracing for the ripple effects of an NHL lockout.
“If (the 2004-05 NHL lockout and WHL season) was an indicator, we certainly saw and increase in Calgary and Vancouver, our NHL markets at the time, and we expect we would see the same pattern to continue this year if it was an extended lockout,” Robison said. “We don’t believe there will be much impact in the other centres where we enjoy reasonably good attendance overall.”
He added the WHL is in discussions with the NHL should they begin their season late and have to deal with the release of players.
“We have a general idea of how that would impact our teams at this time,” Robison said. “We’re working through a list that would be released, should an NHL season start late. If it was a normal start-up, we would be releasing our players but a late start, we’d be dealing with a more limited list of players. We haven’t come to a conclusion on what that list would look like but we’re in discussions right now.”
Safety continues to be an issue as the WHL continues to make strides on protecting players from concussions and other injuries.
The WHL’s Seven Point Plan includes new playing rules, more severe suspensions for repeat offenders, production of an educational video on the risks of concussions, a seminar for WHL head coaches and general managers, soft cap elbow and should pads, expanded research data and a review of all WHL arena facility safety standards.
There is also a few WHL playing rule changes this year, including the adoption of a staged fighting rule and new delay of game penalties for players who use their hand to cover the puck on the ice to prevent an opponent from playing it or on a faceoff.
(Courtesy Calgary Herald)