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Spokane Chiefs among 15 WHL teams to pause operations as league stalls due to COVID-19

UPDATED: Fri., Jan. 7, 2022

By Dan Thompson For The Spokesman-Review

After announcing COVID-19-related disruptions to a handful of teams during the past two weeks, the Western Hockey League entered a much more widespread pause on Friday.

Of the junior league’s 22 teams, 15 are on pause as a result of “multiple players and staff being added to the WHL COVID-19 Protocol List due to exhibiting symptoms or having tested positive for COVID-19,” according to the league’s official release.

One of those teams is the Spokane Chiefs, whose next three games were postponed. That includes Saturday’s contest at Seattle, as well as games Tuesday and Wednesday at Victoria, British Columbia. Inclement weather over the mountain passes had already postponed the Chiefs’ scheduled home game Friday against Everett.

Chiefs President Mark Miles said the teams will work together to reschedule those games.

Spokane last played on Jan. 1 and is scheduled to play again on Friday at home against Everett.

Of the 35 games on the league’s schedule Friday through Wednesday, 28 were postponed.

“The WHL and our member clubs remain fully committed to playing through the 68-game WHL regular-season schedule and playoffs,” WHL Commissioner Ron Robison said in the release. “As we work through the challenges presented by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, our priority continues to be to deliver a world-class development experience for WHL players, staff, and officials, and to do so in a safe and healthy manner.”

Miles said the league is continuing to brainstorm options on how to fit in all of its postponed games, such as shortening some playoff rounds to best-of-5 series to extend the regular season.

Before the season, the league mandated that all players, operations staff and other team personnel be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Miles said that the league considers booster shots as optional and the Chiefs made these shots available to the team.

Three of the teams paused are in the U.S. Division: Spokane, Everett and Tri-City. WHL’s policy is to not comment on or identify players in COVID-19 protocol.

The Chiefs will continue to follow their seasonlong attendance policies, Miles said. Those include a mask requirement for all guests regardless of vaccination status, as well as proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test for all guests 12 years or older.

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