About the WHL
About the WHL
The Western Hockey League started with just seven teams based in the provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta in 1966. The WHL now has representation in all four Western Canadian provinces and the U.S. States of Oregon and Washington. The WHL now consists of 22 member Clubs with 17 based in Western Canada and 5 in the U.S. Pacific Northwest.
The WHL is a member of the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) whose membership is comprised of the three major junior hockey leagues; the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) and the Western Hockey League (WHL). At the conclusion of each League’s playoffs, the CHL hosts the MasterCard Memorial Cup, a National Championship tournament involving each of the three League’s Champions and the tournament host.
Since its inception, the WHL has been regarded as one of the finest player development Leagues in the world and continues to not only be a leading supplier of talent to the NHL, but to Canada’s National teams at all levels as well as Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) hockey.
The WHL offers top young prospects in Western Canada and the U.S. the opportunity to reach their full potential both on and off the ice, by providing an ideal environment to develop as a hockey player while not compromising their academic goals. All WHL Clubs graduate 100% of their players from high school and provide Education Advisors and support programs to assist players with their academics. The WHL Player Experience also includes comprehensive support programs such as Red Cross RespectEd, WHL Drug, Alcohol and Gambling Awareness, Drug Education and Anti-Doping, WHL Counselling Services, and CHL Concussion Management Program. In addition, the WHL Scholarship provides players graduating from the League with the opportunity to attend the post-secondary institution or career-enhancing program of their choice with one year’s tuition, books and compulsory fees for each season played in the WHL provided by WHL Club Ownership.
The WHL Office is located in Calgary, Alberta and is responsible to administer all matters related to League operations. Under the direction of the WHL Commissioner, some of the WHL Office functions include game supervision, scheduling, League meetings, player drafts, WHL Scholarship administration, player transactions, player recruitment, finance, marketing, media relations, communications, and statistics.
The WHL is committed to remaining a world leader in the development of players, coaches and officials for the NHL, CIS and Hockey Canada while continuing to offer the finest player experience and academic opportunities. The WHL also continues to be recognized for a high standard of competition, fair play and integrity while playing an active role in communities, minor hockey programs and local charitable initiatives throughout the region.
The 2015-16 WHL Season marks the Western Hockey League’s 50th Season.
The WHL was co-founded in 1966 by Scotty Munro, Bill Hunter, Jim Piggott and Del Wilson.
The Western Hockey League, originally referred to as the Western Canada Hockey League, was formed in 1966. The 1966-67 inaugural season consisted of seven member clubs: Calgary Buffaloes, Edmonton Oil Kings, Estevan Bruins, Moose Jaw Canucks, Regina Pats, Saskatoon Blades and Weyburn Red Wings. Currently, the WHL consists of 22 member Clubs with 17 based in Western Canada and five in the U.S. Pacific Northwest.
The WHL Member Clubs wish to pay tribute to the individuals who co-founded the League in 1966 – Scotty Munro, Bill Hunter, Jim Piggott and Del Wilson.
Scotty Munro had a vision. Having dominated the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League with the Estevan Bruins in the early 1960’s, it was time to break away from the provincial league and form the Western Canada Hockey League. Munro’s concept was enthusiastically endorsed by Bill Hunter of the Edmonton Oil Kings, Del Wilson of the Regina Pats and Jim Piggott of the Saskatoon Blades. Later, Moose Jaw, Weyburn and Calgary also agreed to form the new seven-team WCHL for the inaugural 1966-67 season. Munro owned and operated the Estevan Bruins before selling his shares in the Club in 1969 and moving on to manage the Calgary Centennials. Munro was not only a visionary and shrewd operator, but also an outstanding coach as many of his players in Estevan and later with the Calgary Centennials went on to highly successful NHL careers. Scotty Munro, a native of Swift Current, Saskatchewan passed away in 1975.
Bill Hunter was one of Canada’s most flamboyant personalities and a sports promoter who recognized the potential for major junior hockey to expand throughout Western Canada. As Owner/President of the Edmonton Oil Kings, Hunter was a driving force behind the formation of the Western Canada Hockey League in 1966. Having guided the Edmonton Oil Kings to the Memorial Cup Championship in 1965-66 he enthusiastically endorsed Scotty Munro’s recommendation to form a regional major junior league in Western Canada. In 1966-67 the Edmonton Oil Kings became one of seven franchises in the new WCHL and Hunter was named the League’s first Chairman of the Board. Hunter, was also the co-founder of the World Hockey Association in 1972-73 and passed away in December 2002.
Jim Piggott’s association with Saskatoon’s junior and professional hockey teams began in the early 1950’s. Piggott, having established himself in the construction industry, entered the hockey scene in 1951 as a part owner of the Saskatoon Quakers of the now defunct Western Professional Hockey League. Piggott then operated the Saskatoon Junior Quakers from 1955 to 1964 before entering the Saskatoon Blades in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL) for the 1964-65 season. After two seasons in the SJHL, Piggott agreed to move the Blades to the newly formed Western Canada Hockey League (WCHL). Piggott’s Blades became one of the most successful franchises in the WCHL inaugural season. Jim Piggott, a native of Bangor, Saskatchewan, was owner of the Saskatoon Blades until his passing in July 1979.
Del Wilson was a scout in Western Canada for the Montreal Canadiens of the NHL when he was appointed General Manager of the Regina Pats in 1955. Wilson spent 15 seasons as the Pats General Manager until joining the Canadiens as a full time scout for the 1969-70 season. In 1970-71 Wilson headed a group which purchased the Regina Pats. As President and General Manager of a highly respected Pats organization, Wilson led Regina to a Memorial Cup Championship in 1974. Wilson sold his interest in the Regina Pats in 1980 ending a 25 year association with junior hockey in Regina but continued to serve as a scout in the Canadiens organization. Wilson retired from the Canadiens in 1985 having served 47 years with Montreal in a scouting capacity. Wilson, who served as WHL Chairman and Referee-in-Chief, was a driving force in not only establishing the Western Canada Hockey League in 1966 but also the Canadian Major Junior Hockey League in 1973. Del retired to Campbell River, BC before passing away in November of 2015 at the age of 88. Prior to his passing, Del was on hand in Moose Jaw and Regina in September 2015 for the opening of the WHL’s 50th Season.
1966: League begins play as the Western Canada Junior Hockey League with seven teams: Calgary Buffaloes, Edmonton Oil Kings, Estevan Bruins, Moose Jaw Canucks, Regina Pats, Saskatoon Blades, and Weyburn Red Wings.
1967: Calgary Buffaloes become the Calgary Centennials. The Brandon Wheat Kings, Flin Flon Bombers, Swift Current Broncos and Winnipeg Jets join the League.
1968: League shortens its name to Western Canada Hockey League. Moose Jaw Canucks, Regina Pats and Weyburn Red Wings leave the League. The remaining eight teams break into two divisions: East (Brandon, Estevan, Flin Flon, Winnipeg,); West (Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Swift Current).
1969: WHL Champion Flin Flon Bombers sweep best-of-7 “National Championship” series against Western Ontario Junior A Hockey League Champion St. Thomas Barons. Series starred Bobby Clarke for Flin Flon and Ken Murray for St. Thomas. The Championship was not sanctioned by the CAHA and game four was forfeited during the second period by St. Thomas due to violent play. The series was a glaring mismatch.
1970: Regina Pats return to the League and play in the Eastern Division; Medicine Hat Tigers are granted a franchise to play out of the Western Division.
1971: Estevan Bruins move to New Westminster, and play in the Western Division. Victoria Cougars, and Vancouver Nats granted franchises, both play in the Western Division. Swift Current and Saskatoon move to the Eastern Division.
1972: All WHL Divisions remain the same.
1973: Vancouver Nats move to Kamloops and become the Kamloops Chiefs; Winnipeg Jets become Winnipeg Clubs.
1974: Swift Current Broncos move to Lethbridge and remain the Broncos.
1975: All WHL Divisions remain the same.
1976: Edmonton Oil Kings move to Portland and become the Portland Winter Hawks. Winnipeg Clubs become Winnipeg Monarchs. League splits into three divisions: East (Brandon, Saskatoon, Flin Flon, Regina); Central (Medicine Hat, Winnipeg, Lethbridge, Calgary); West (New Westminster, Kamloops, Portland, Victoria).
1977: Calgary Centennials move to Billings to become the Billings Bighorns. Winnipeg Monarchs move to Calgary and become the Calgary Wranglers. Kamloops Chiefs move to Seattle and become the Breakers and remain in the Western Division.
1978: The WCHL becomes the Western Hockey League. Flin Flon Bombers move to Edmonton to become the second incarnation of the Edmonton Oil Kings.
1979: Edmonton Oil Kings move to Great Falls to become the Great Falls Americans; they would fold on December 16 after playing 28 games. The WHL shrinks back into two divisions: West (Portland, Victoria, Seattle, New Westminster) and East (Regina, Calgary, Medicine Hat, Billings, Brandon, Lethbridge, Saskatoon, Great Falls)
1980: Winnipeg Warriors granted a franchise and play in the East Division. Spokane Flyers granted a franchise and play in the West Division.
1981: New Westminster Bruins move to Kamloops and become the Kamloops Junior Oilers. Spokane Flyers fold on December 2 after playing 26 games.
1982: Billings Bighorns move to Nanaimo and become the Nanaimo Islanders. Prince Albert Raiders and Kelowna Wings are granted franchises. Prince Albert plays in the East Division, Kelowna in the West.
1983: Nanaimo Islanders move to New Westminster and become the 2nd incarnation of the New Westminster Bruins.
1984: Winnipeg Warriors become the Moose Jaw Warriors. Kamloops Junior Oilers become the Kamloops Blazers.
1985: Kelowna Wings move to Spokane and become the Spokane Chiefs. Seattle Breakers become Seattle Thunderbirds.
1986: Lethbridge Broncos return to Swift Current and remain the Broncos.
1987: Calgary Wranglers move to Lethbridge to become the Lethbridge Hurricanes.
1988: New Westminster Bruins move to Tri-Cities and become the Tri-City Americans.
1989: All WHL Divisions remain the same.
1990: All WHL Divisions remain the same.
1991: Tacoma Rockets granted a franchise and play in the Western Division.
1992: Red Deer Rebels granted a franchise and play in the Eastern Division.
1993: All WHL Divisions remain the same.
1994: Victoria Cougars move to Prince George and become the Prince George Cougars.
1995: Calgary Hitmen are granted a franchise. Tacoma Rockets move to Kelowna and become the Kelowna Rockets. WHL divides into three divisions: West (Spokane, Tri-Cities, Kelowna, Seattle, Kamloops, Portland, Prince George), Central (Swift Current, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Red Deer, Calgary), and East (Brandon, Prince Albert, Regina, Saskatoon, Moose Jaw).
1996: Edmonton Ice are granted a franchise, and play in the Central Division. Swift Current moves to the East Division.
1997: All WHL Divisions remain the same.
1998: Edmonton Ice move to Cranbrook and become the Kootenay Ice.
1999: All WHL Divisions remain the same.
2000: All WHL Divisions remain the same.
2001: Vancouver Giants granted a franchise. WHL divides into two conferences of two divisions each: Eastern Conference: East Division (Brandon, Regina, Moose Jaw, Saskatoon, Prince Albert); Central Division (Red Deer, Swift Current, Lethbridge, Calgary, Medicine Hat); Western Conference: British Columbia Division (Kamloops, Kootenay, Prince George, Kelowna, Vancouver); United States Division (Portland, Spokane, Tri-Cities, Seattle).
2002: All WHL Divisions remain the same.
2003: Everett Silvertips are granted a franchise and play in the United States Division.
2004: All WHL Divisions remain the same.
2005: All WHL Divisions remain the same.
2006: Chlliwack Bruins are granted a franchise and play in the British Columbia Division. The Swift Current Broncos move into the East Division while the Kootenay Ice move into the Central Division.
2007: Edmonton Oil Kings are granted a franchise and play in the Central Division. This gives the Eastern Conference 12 Clubs, six in each of the Central and East Divisions, and the Western Conference remains with 10 Clubs, five in each of the B.C. and U.S. Divisions.
2008: All WHL Divisions remain the same.
2009: All WHL Divisions remain the same.
2010: All WHL Divisions remain the same.
2011: Chilliwack Bruins move to Victoria, B.C., and become the Victoria Royals.
2012: All WHL Divisions remain the same.
2013: All WHL Divisions remain the same.
2014: WHL introduces hybrid playoff format, with divisional and Wild Card qualifiers.
2015: WHL celebrates 50th Season, announces Top 50 WHL Players of All-Time. All WHL Divisions remain the same.
2016: All WHL Divisions remain the same.