QMJHL and WHL Cancel Season

WHL Season
KELOWNA, BC - MARCH 11: Referee Ward Pateman stands on the ice at the Kelowna Rockets against the Victoria Royals at Prospera Place on March 11, 2020 in Kelowna, Canada. (Photo by Marissa Baecker/Getty Images)

The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League has cancelled the remainder of the regular season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Bob McKenzie of TSN has reported that the WHL have cancelled their season as well.

UPDATE: The Western Hockey League has officially announced the cancellation of the remainder of the 2019-20 regular season.

QMJHL and WHL Season Ends

With the ending of the regular season, the standings will be determined by points percentage. The Sherbrooke Phoenix finished as the best team in the league for the first time in their history, while the Acadie-Bathurst Titan finished in the last place for the second straight year. The QMJHL draft lottery scheduled for March 25 has been postponed for a later date. 

McKenzie reports that the WHL and the Ontario Hockey League are expected to follow the QMJHL with this announcement, and base the final standings off points percentage. The OHL has a board of governors conference call tomorrow, and McKenzie expects a decision to be made after the call. Today, the Ontario government announced a state of emergency because of the pandemic. 

McKenzie reports that the playoffs and the Memorial Cup have not been cancelled. He does say it is a “long shot” that they will happen. The Memorial Cup is scheduled to be played in Kelowna, British Columbia from May 21-31. However, McKenzie also reports that British Columbia has banned gatherings of over 50 people until the end of May. British Columbia is one of the hardest-hit provinces by the pandemic in Canada, with 186 cases and seven deaths. 

Community Impact

The regular season for the QMJHL was set to end on March 21, the WHL and OHL ending their seasons a day later. Each team in those leagues had about five games left to play, so by this point, the standings are nearly set, and a lot of regular-season money won’t be lost. This will be hardest felt by the teams who are just outside the playoff picture. Especially for the senior players who all of a sudden had their junior hockey careers end.

If the playoffs are cancelled, that will have a more significant impact. That means every player who is either 21 or about to make the jump to the professional ranks would have their junior careers abruptly end. For the players on contending teams, this would possibly be their only shot at competing for a championship. The cycle of junior hockey only allows a team to have one or two seasons to contend for a championship. Then their core players graduate, and the team falls in the standings.

Many contending teams trade a lot of future assets to win now. The Moncton Wildcats of the QMJHL, for example, traded 13 picks spread out between three years at this year’s trade period to load up for a Memorial Cup run. It has worked for them so far. They finished the season on a 16 game win streak and are second in the league. If they can’t play in the playoffs, it will all be for nothing. The cancellation of the playoffs could prove to be disastrous for them and other contending teams who won’t have a chance to compete for a championship for a few years.

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