The Kent-based Seattle Thunderbirds are scheduled to return to Western Hockey League (WHL) play March 19 but no fans will be allowed at the games.
The WHL announced Friday, Feb. 5 that its U.S. Division will begin the 2020-21 regular season on Friday, March 19. This follows an update from Washington state regarding sporting activities COVID-19 requirements issued on Feb. 1, which allows the league to return to play in the state.
Seattle plays its home games at the city-owned accesso ShoWare Center in Kent.
The five U.S. Division teams – the Everett Silvertips, Portland Winterhawks, Seattle Thunderbirds, Spokane Chiefs and Tri-City Americans – will play games exclusively within the division. The schedule will be announced at a later date, according to a T-Birds press release.
The WHL has developed an extensive set of protocols to not only provide a safe environment for players and staff, but to protect residents of the state in the community. Further details on these protocols will be announced at a later date. As the league returns to play in the state, no spectators will be permitted to enter WHL facilities.
Due to COVID-19, the league halted the 2019-2020 season last March and later canceled the season. The start of the 2020-2021 season has been postponed several times due to the pandemic.
The WHL, a development league for junior hockey players, is based in Calgary, Alberta. The league consists of 22 clubs with 17 located in Western Canada and five in the Pacific Northwest. A member of the Canadian Hockey League, the WHL has been a leading supplier of talent for the NHL for more than 50 years.