WHL Commissioner Ron Robison officially launched the WHL’s 50th Season at a media conference in Regina earlier today.
The 2015-16 season marks the 50th Season of the Western Hockey League, which was established in 1966. The regular season will begin in Moose Jaw, SK on Thursday, September 24th as the Warriors host the Regina Pats. The match-up is in honour of the two teams who competed in the League’s first championship series in 1967. That season, the Moose Jaw Canucks defeated the Regina Pats to become the first championship team in League history.
“We are excited to celebrate the rich history of our League this season,” commented WHL Commissioner Ron Robison. “We have been fortunate to have many talented players, excellent teams and exceptional people in the WHL since 1966, and we truly look forward to honouring these individuals and sharing the story of our League throughout our 50th Season.”
Prior to the season-opening game on September 24th, a ceremony will honour the 50-year history of the WHL and the tradition of both the Warriors and Pats’ franchises. It was announced on Monday that former Moose Jaw Warrior Ryan Smyth and former Regina Pat Clark Gillies will travel to Moose Jaw to take part in the ceremony.
The game will be broadcast live, and in high definition, on Shaw TV as this year’s WHL on Shaw broadcast schedule begins. Fans can tune in to Shaw TV at 6:30 p.m. MT for a special 50th Season pre-game show before the game. Viewers outside of Shaw’s Western Canadian network can watch the game online at www.whllive.com or from any smart phone or tablet using the WHL Live app.
Throughout the season, each WHL Club will host a special night in honour of the WHL’s 50th Season. Fans are encouraged to check their local team’s promotional schedule for details.
The WHL will also launch a series of special campaigns during its 50th Season. Beginning September 29th, two of the League’s 49 championship teams will be profiled weekly as a part of Championship Tuesdays at www.WHL.ca and on the WHL’s social media channels. Fans are also invited to follow the WHL’s social media channels for Throwback Thursdays which will highlight photos, videos and fun facts from the League’s past 49 seasons. Fans are encouraged to join the conversation on social media by using the official hashtag of the 50th Season, #WHL50.
In early October, fans will have the opportunity to help select the top 50 WHL players of all-time in conjunction with a panel of WHL historians. From a list of the top 125 WHL players of all-time as selected by the panel, fans will be able to have their say by way of an online vote available at www.WHL.ca. Beginning in January, the WHL will count down and release the top 50 players of all-time.
The WHL has also produced a commemorative book that chronicles the League’s history, teams and key figures in celebration of its 50th Season. The book will be available in October.
The WHL will host every major national event during its 50th Season. First, the Canada/Russia Challenge will kick off in Kelowna on November 9th and Kamloops on November 10th. The CHL/NHL Top Prospects game will be held in Vancouver on January 28th, while Kamloops will host Scotiabank Hockey Day in Canada on February 6th. Finally, the MasterCard Memorial Cup returns to Alberta for the first time since 1974 as Red Deer will host the national championship from May 19th to 29th.
More special initiatives celebrating the WHL’s 50th Season will be announced throughout the season.
The WHL also announced a series of rule changes on Monday, including a shift to a three-on-three overtime format similar to the National Hockey League.
Once again, all 792 WHL regular season games, as well as the entire playoff schedule, will be available for viewing on WHL LIVE webcasts during the 50th Season with the WHL’s digital media partner NeuLion, in cooperation with the WHL’s radio broadcast partners. WHL LIVE boasts enhanced features including home and away broadcast audio, picture-in-picture and quad-view options, enhanced high definition live and archived games as well as mobile capabilities for iPhone, iPad, Android Smartphone and Android Tablet. As always, WHL LIVE will feature live and archived video that seamlessly detects detect a viewer’s bandwidth and adjusts the picture quality to eliminate buffering or intermittent viewing while fans will also still have the ability to pause and rewind live games.