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WHL players, staff must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, league says

Last Updated Aug 17, 2021 at 8:58 pm MDT

CALGARY – The Western Hockey League is making COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for its hockey players and personnel.

The WHL announced Monday that effective immediately, all players, referees, operations staff, and office staff must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Managers, coaches, scouts, trainers, equipment managers, consultants, on-ice and off-ice officials, including penalty box attendants; timekeepers and scorekeepers, and anyone else who interacts directly and on a regular basis with players also must be vaccinated.

They’ll have to be immunized at least 14 days prior to the beginning of the 2021 season in October.

WHL Commissioner Ron Robison says the mandate is being introduced to protect players and staff.

“With travel restrictions currently in place with the Canada-U.S. border as well as the province of Manitoba, it is important all players and staff are fully vaccinated in order to be eligible to play a full season in the WHL,” he said.

And while billet homes aren’t covered by the mandate, the WHL is strongly encouraging players to live with families who have been fully immunized.

This isn’t surprising news for Jeff Chynoweth, the general manager of the Calgary Hitmen.

“I think we all want to get back to whatever the new normal looks like. And I think that these are some of the things a lot of businesses and leagues are implementing,” he said.

He says all of the Hitmen’s returning players, top prospects, and staff have all already been double vaccinated.

“If they want to play in the western hockey league, it’s part of playing in the western hockey league right now.”

While there’s no official plan yet for players or staff who haven’t had both shots yet, Chynoweth is simply looking forward to having everyone back in the Saddledome.

“Like every junior hockey team, the lifeblood of their organization is their fans and then their passion. We’re looking forward to having that opportunity to play in front of them and get our players back and get into a new normal routine of playing in the new WHL.”