The Western Hockey League wrapped up its Annual General Meeting in Vancouver on Wednesday afternoon, announcing a variety of changes that will come into play for the 2016-17 campaign.
Most notably, hybrid icing will replace automatic icing and new video replay systems will be introduced into all WHL buildings for the upcoming season.
Additionally, the league released its schedule for the 2016 pre-season, which will take Cranbrook’s Kootenay Ice back to Kennewick, Wash., for the Tri-City Americans annual tourney before once again travelling to Crowsnest Pass, Alta., for the annual Crowsnest Pass Thunder Challenge.
Hybrid icing takes its place in the WHL after a successful run at the National Hockey League level. Previously, Canadian Hockey League rules dictated automatic icing calls.
Now, with hybrid icing in place, players will be allowed more competition and races for pucks sent the length of the playing surface from behind centre ice. Whereas previously the play was blown dead immediately upon the puck crossing the opposition goal line, players will now be allowed to compete for the loose puck up to the end-zone face-off circles.
Video replay systems are set to be installed in all WHL facilities in time for the 2016-17 campaign, providing greater review capabilities for goal judges. Hawk-Eye Innovations, which also supplies the NHL and Major League Baseball, will be providers of the new replay technology.
One other minor rule change bring clarity to pucks entering the net off a player’s skate.
Under the rule modification, players will be legally allowed to redirect pucks into the net with a skate in any fashion from outside the crease. This eliminates any grey area regarding the appearance of a distinct kicking motion on any play in question. Previously, players were not allowed to distinctly kick pucks into the opposing team’s net.
The 2016 WHL pre-season schedule was released Wednesday afternoon, including 68 games across the league from Aug. 30 through Sept. 17.
The Kootenay Ice will not host a home exhibition game in 2016. In September 2015, the Ice hosted the Lethbridge Hurricanes at Cranbrook’s Memorial Arena.
Instead, the Ice will make their usual trip to Kennewick, Wash., for the Tri-City Americans annual pre-season tournament (Sept. 7 to 10). Joining the Ice in the Tri-City area will be the Everett Silvertips, Spokane Chiefs, Prince George Cougars, Portland Winterhawks, Seattle Thunderbirds and Red Deer Rebels.
Following the trip to Kennewick, the Ice will once again participate in the annual Crowsnest Pass Thunder Challenge (Sept. 15 to 17), along with the Lethbridge Hurricanes and Calgary Hitmen.
Finally, the WHL Board of Governors re-elected Bruce Hamilton of the Kelowna Rockets as WHL Chairman of the Board. He was re-elected on a two-year term Tuesday and has served in the position from 1998 through 2004 and now since 2008. Brent Sutter of the Red Deer Rebels and Russ Farwell of the Seattle Thunderbirds were also re-elected to represent the WHL’s Central and U.S. Divisions, respectively, on the WHL Executive Committee. Ron Toigo of the Vancovuer Giants and Gord Broda of the Prince Albert Raiders represent the B.C. and East Divisions, respectively.
Next up on the Western Hockey League calendar is the 2016 CHL Import Draft where the Kootenay Ice hold the first-overall selection. The CHL Import Draft is slated for Tuesday, June 28.
Kootenay Ice 2016 Pre-season Schedule
Thursday, Sept. 8 — Kootenay Ice vs. Prince George Cougars (8:05 p.m. at Kennewick)Friday, Sept. 9 — Kootenay Ice vs. Seattle Thunderbirds (4 p.m. at Kennewick)Saturday, Sept. 10 — Kootenay Ice vs. Portland Winterhawks (12 p.m. at Kennewick)Thursday, Sept. 15 — Lethbridge Hurricanes vs. Kootenay Ice (7 p.m. at Crowsnest Pass)Saturday, Sept. 17 — Kootenay Ice vs. Calgary Hitmen (7 p.m. at Crowsnest Pass)
All times listed are Mountain