Calgary, Alta. – WHL Commissioner Ron Robison officially launched the 2017-18 WHL regular season during a media conference Thursday morning in Regina. Beginning this Friday, the WHL enters its 52nd season as all 22 WHL Member Clubs across Western Canada and the U.S. Pacific Northwest begin their quest to hoist the Ed Chynoweth Cup as WHL Champions.
“In this the 52nd season of the WHL, our Clubs remain truly committed to providing our players with the highest standard of development, both on and off the ice,” commented WHL Commissioner Ron Robison. “We are proud to continue offering our players exactly that, from world-class coaching and management, to a comprehensive WHL Scholarship and education program to a series of Players First support services designed to ensure they develop in a highly positive environment.
“We are looking forward to a historic season, highlighted by the 100th anniversary of the Regina Pats, coupled fittingly with the 100th Mastercard Memorial Cup, which will be hosted in Regina come May. Along the way, we will be privileged to watch the top young prospects in the world compete for the WHL Championship.”
Regina Pats Century Celebration & 100th Mastercard Memorial Cup
The 2017-18 season will be highlighted by ongoing celebratory events surrounding the Regina Pats 100th anniversary, paired fittingly alongside the Queen City hosting the 100th Mastercard Memorial Cup from May 18-27, 2018.
Swift Current & Moose Jaw Host CIBC Canada-Russia Series
The Land of Living Skies will shine in 2017-18 as the cities of Moose Jaw and Swift Current welcome the CIBC Canada Russia Series on November 6 and 7, respectively. The best and brightest the WHL has to offer will take to the prairie ice surfaces of Mosaic Place and the Credit Union i-Plex to take on the Russian National Junior Team as part of a six-game series featuring all three Canadian Hockey Leagues.
What We Stand For: The WHL Player Experience
The WHL is fully committed to providing our players with a world-class hockey experience. We believe our WHL Member Clubs offer our players the highest quality of hockey experience available in the world today and this can be best described by our three key cornerstones: Development, Education and the Environment.
“The player experience is the number one priority for all WHL teams,” commented Commissioner Robison. “As one of the premier development leagues in the world, we pride ourselves in developing our players and remain committed to providing all the support they need to get to the next level in the game of hockey.”
We provide the highest level of competition for junior age players in North America. The quality of our coaching, facilities and professional support services offers the ideal setting for players to develop their skills.
The WHL offers the most comprehensive education program in North America. WHL Clubs are governed by League-wide education standards to ensure players not only achieve their high school academic goals, but also qualify for post-secondary studies. While playing in the WHL, players receive financial assistance for post-secondary course. The WHL also offers a full guaranteed scholarship to all our players, which can be applied to any post-secondary institution of choice.
The WHL is committed to offering the best possible experience we can for our players, including a mandatory series of national health and wellness programs, such as the CHL Drug Education and Anti-Doping program, the Red Cross RespectEd program and our new Canadian Mental Health initiatives, among others. When combined with our WHL Seven Point Plan player safety initiative, these programs provide our players with a safe and healthy environment in which to develop.
WHL Scholarship Program Continues Breaking Records
After awarding a League-record of more than 350 WHL Scholarships during its 50th anniversary, the WHL exceed that benchmark in 2016-17 by awarding 375 WHL Scholarships as more WHL graduates continue to choose to access their fully-guaranteed WHL Scholarship package. Once again, the WHL is poised to challenge that record in 2017-18.
“The WHL and our member Clubs are very proud to continue offering our players the most comprehensive hockey scholarship program of its kind in North America today,” commented Commissioner Robison. “WHL Clubs are fully committed to providing a world class experience for our players, which includes the opportunity to pursue both their academic and hockey goals while playing at the top level of the Canadian amateur hockey system.”
Every player who plays in the WHL is eligible to receive the WHL Scholarship. For every season a player plays in the WHL, they receive a guaranteed, full-year WHL Scholarship, including tuition, textbooks and compulsory fees to a post-secondary institution of their choice. WHL players can also access financial assistance for post-secondary courses while playing in the League prior to accessing their WHL Scholarship. The WHL and Athabasca University have partnered to offer, through online and other distance education vehicles, fully-accredited university courses to any WHL player interested in further pursuing post-secondary studies while playing in the WHL.
The WHL continues to be the leading provider of Hockey Scholarships in Western Canada. Since 1993, the WHL has awarded more than 5,800 Scholarships to graduate players, representing an investment by WHL ownership of more than $21 million. With the Fall 2017 academic semester, the WHL projects exceeding 6,000 awarded WHL Scholarships to graduate players.
WHL Community Initiatives
The WHL is proud to give back to its communities through a number of community initiatives scheduled for throughout the 2017-18 season, including the newly-minted WHL Suits Up with Don Cherry to Promote Organ Donation – Presented by RE/MAX. The WHL is also eagerly anticipating the second seasons of the Ashley HomeStore Hope to Dream initiative and Chatters A Beautiful Woman program in recognition of incredible billet mothers around the league, among others.
WHL Game Centre Scoring Enhancements
In addition to the standard scoring of games in WHL Game Centre, individual player shot tracking and location-based face-off tracking will be introduced for the 2017-18 WHL season. These statistics will be logged into the LeagueStat live scoring system and available within WHL Game Centre and individual player profiles at WHL.ca.
Further enhancements to the online scoring platform at WHL Game Centre are in development for future release in order to provide more hockey-based data and information for fans.
WHL Playoffs Format & Playing Rule Clarifications for 2017-18
The current WHL Playoffs format, which has proven both successful and exciting for fans, has been extended for three more seasons. The renewal of many classic, regional rivalries have provided unforgettable moments and the overall structure continues to pave a fair and competitive path to the Ed Chynoweth Cup.
Additionally, the WHL has adopted the new NHL rule stating that a puck struck by a high-stick in the offensive zone on the power play will result in a face-off outside the blue line instead of in the defensive zone of the offending club.
In order to put a further emphasis on player safety, a 10-minute misconduct will be assessed without warning to a player not wearing a mouth guard or wearing a mouth guard improperly. Slew footing will be enforced more strictly, with offending players subject to either a double minor or a major penalty and game misconduct.
In order to maintain an acceptable pace of play, the pace of the game will be upheld by closely managing team line changes, face-offs and the situations in which a goaltender may freeze the puck.
WHL on Access
The WHL on Access returns to broadcast 20 games as Saskatchewan’s regional broadcaster. In addition to regular Pats coverage, Access will be producing WHL games throughout the entire province of Saskatchewan. The WHL on Access broadcast schedule will begin Friday, September 29 at 7 p.m. MT, when the Regina Pats visit the Moose Jaw Warriors for the renewal of a rivalry that expects to be fiercer than ever in 2017-18. The legendary Peter Loubardias will have the call to open the WHL on Access schedule.
There will be a handful of banner raisings throughout the opening weekend of the 2017-18 WHL season, providing special beginnings for fans across Western Canada and the U.S. Pacific Northwest.
Friday evening, the Prince George Cougars are set to raise the first B.C. Division Championship banner in Prince George franchise history when the Spokane Chiefs visit the CN Centre.
In Southern Alberta, the Medicine Hat Tigers will raise a division banner for the first time since winning the Central Division during the 2006-07 season. That ceremony is set for Saturday when the Lethbridge Hurricanes visit the Canalta Centre to renew their Highway 3 rivalry.
A pair of banner raisings will take place in the U.S. Division on opening weekend as the Seattle Thunderbirds celebrate their 2016 Ed Chynoweth Cup victory by raising to the rafters the very first WHL Championship banner in franchise history. Those festivities are set for Saturday when the Tri-City Americans visit the accesso ShoWare Center in Kent.
Up the road in Everett, the Silvertips will mark the celebration of their 15th anniversary season by raising the second U.S. Division banner in club history on Saturday as the Portland Winterhawks trek north.
Back in the Queen City, the Regina Pats will raise a trio of banners for a successful 2016-17 season that saw them claim the WHL Regular Season Championship, East Division Championship and Eastern Conference Championship. Those proceedings will take place Saturday when the Brandon Wheat Kings visit the Brandt Centre.
WHL Alumni Association
Former Red Deer Rebels defenceman Jesse Wallin, who twice suited up for Hockey Canada at the World Junior Championship, has been appointed President of the WHL Alumni Association. The rejuvenated WHL Alumni Association is set to meet throughout the 2017-18 season with eyes on rolling out a number of key events in the coming year.
About the Western Hockey League
Regarded as the world’s finest development league for junior hockey players, the Western Hockey League (WHL) head office is based in Calgary, Alberta. The WHL consists of 22 member Clubs with 17 located in Western Canada and five in the U.S. Pacific Northwest. A member of the Canadian Hockey League, the WHL has been a leading supplier of talent for the National Hockey League for over 50 years. The WHL is also the leading provider of hockey scholarships with over 375 graduates each year receiving WHL Scholarships to pursue a post-secondary education of their choice. Each season, WHL players also form the nucleus of Canada’s National Junior Hockey Team.