Western Hockey League Commissioner Ron Robison, officially launched the 2011-12 WHL season at a special event in Moose Jaw today. The WHL’s 46th Regular Season officially opens on Thursday, September 22 with a special season opening game between the Moose Jaw Warriors and Brandon Wheat Kings at the brand NEW Mosaic Place in downtown Moose Jaw. The feature opening game will be televised LIVE on SHAW TV starting with a half hour preview show and full coverage of opening night festivities at 7:00pm MT. The 2011-12 Regular Season gets into full swing on Friday, September 23 with six WHL contests. This season the Western Hockey League also makes its return to Victoria and SHAW TV will have all the coverage of their first home opener against WHL BC Division rivals the Vancouver Giants on Saturday, September 24 at 7:00pm PT.
WHL Commissioner Ron Robison also announced that in the wake of the tragic passing this summer of four former WHL players, including Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien, Wade Belak and Brad McCrimmon, all WHL players and officials will display a decal on their helmet in their memory. A League wide moment of silence will also be recognized across all 22 WHL Clubs home openers over the next few weeks to remember the impact each of these individuals had on the WHL and hockey world.
This WHL regular season promises to be one of the most competitive in recent years, with each Division being hotly contested between rivals, and no run-away favourites en route to the WHL Championship and birth in MasterCard Memorial Cup. As a leader in player development and top young talent, the WHL saw 33 players selected in the 2011 NHL Draft, with five being selected in the first round, including NHL first overall pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (Red Deer Rebels), Duncan Siemens (Saskatoon Blades), Sven Bartchi (Portland Winterhawks), Mark McNeill (Prince Albert Raiders) and Joseph Morrow (Portland Winterhawks). With the potential of their return to the WHL this season and the new crop of top NHL prospects Ryan Murray (Everett Silvertips), Matt Dumba (Red Deer Rebels), Morgan Reilly (Moose Jaw Warriors), Derek Pouliot (Portland Winterhawks) and Griffin Reinhart (Edmonton Oil Kings), among many others, the WHL's commitment to high level player development and providing a highly entertaining product for our fans will be a guarantee.
Player safety is at the forefront in the hockey world and the WHL took extensive measures to protect our players from concussions and other injuries by adopting a Seven Point Plan. The WHL Seven Point Plan is a comprehensive approach to addressing this important matter and includes new playing rules; more severe suspensions for repeat offenders; production of an educational video on risks of concussions to educate the players to be more responsible for themselves on the ice; a seminar for all WHL Head Coaches and General Managers; new soft cap elbow and shoulder pads; expanded research data and a review of all WHL arena facilities safety standards. The WHL Playing Rule changes includes the adoption of a Checking to the Head penalty for lateral and blind side hits to an unsuspecting opponent in open ice where the head is targeted or is the principle point of contact, a new embellishment rule and introduced automatic suspensions for players who receive multiple penalties for checking to the head, checking from behind, embellishment and kneeing.
“We believe the WHL’s Seven Point Plan will serve to reduce concussions and provide an overall safer environment,” commented WHL Commissioner Ron Robison. “With these changes, the top junior hockey players in the world will have even more opportunity to showcase their skills during what promises to be another very competitive WHL regular season.”
The 2011-12 WHL season will be highlighted with three special events including the 2011 Western Canada U16 Challenge Cup, 2011 SUBWAY® Super Series and 2012 Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game. After a year hiatus due to the 2010 Canada Winter Games, the WHL is pleased to present the Western Canada U16 Challenge Cup, which will take place October 27 – 30, 2011 at the new Mosaic Place in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. The event features the highest rated players in the Under 16 age category representing the four Western Provinces of Alberta, BC, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. The 2011 SUBWAY® Super Series , an integral part of the identification process for Canada’s National Junior Team final selection camp, features Team WHL taking on the Russian National Junior Team in game five of the series on Wednesday, November 16 in Regina, SK before wrapping up the six game series on Thursday, November 17 in Moose Jaw, SK. The 2012 Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game will be held at Prospera Place in Kelowna, British Columbia, home of the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets on Wednesday February 1, 2012.
With a highly competitive season expected in all four WHL Divisions, along with all the major events taking place in the WHL this season, fans will have the opportunity to take in these events either live or through one of our many broadcast options. SHAW TV will continue to be the official regional broadcaster of the WHL and will feature 32 regular season games as well as a full series in each round of the 2012 WHL Playoffs. The broadcast schedule will continue to feature key rivals LIVE every Friday night on ‘The WHL on SHAW Friday Night Hockey’ across Western Canada on SHAW TV and Shaw Direct ‘Channel 299’. The WHL and Root Sports Northwest will continue to provide fans in the U.S. Pacific Northwest with televised WHL action providing 10 regular season games to viewers. The 2011-12 WHL on Root Sports NW Broadcast schedule will feature all five WHL U.S. based Clubs: Everett Silvertips, Portland Winterhawks, Seattle Thunderbirds, Spokane Chiefs and Tri-City Americans. The broadcasts bring WHL action into 3.4 million homes across five U.S. states including Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Alaska. Canadian Hockey League broadcast partner Rogers Sportsnet will also feature up to eight nationally televised WHL games on ‘CHL Friday Night Hockey’ plus LIVE coverage of the 2011 SUBWAY® Super Series, 2012 Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game and 2012 MasterCard Memorial Cup.
As in previous seasons, all 22 Clubs will provide radio broadcasts of their entire home and away schedule throughout the regular season and playoffs. All 792 WHL regular season games and the entire playoff schedule will also be available for viewing on WHL LIVE webcasts with the WHL’s digital media partner NeuLion, in cooperation with the WHL’s radio broadcast partners. New this season, WHL LIVE will offer an enhanced viewing experience through a large pop-up video console for live and archived games. The enhanced interface will support the latest in adaptive streaming technology, including the ability to detect a viewer’s bandwidth and seamlessly adjust the picture quality to eliminate buffering or intermittent viewing. The upgraded service also provides higher quality video and lets fans pause and rewind live games.
The WHL is also pleased to acknowledge our prestige partners Kal Tire and Husky and thank both corporations for their extensive support of the WHL and its Western Canada based Clubs. The WHL would also like to recognize our official partners RE/MAX, Delissio, BMO, Dickies, Sandman Hotels, Home Hardware, Jack Links, Dodge, Subway and Old Dutch, together with our broadcast partners SHAW TV, Root Sports, Rogers Sportsnet and NeuLion.
(from Cory Flett WHL.ca)