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Thunderbirds season on pause as CHL responds to COVID-19

The accesso ShoWare Center will be quiet for a while as the CHL pauses the Thunderbirds season. (Brian Liesse/T-Birds)

KENT – Thursday, a day after the Seattle Thunderbirds announced they would be playing future home dates at the accesso ShoWare Center behind closed doors in response to the COVID-19 disease, the Canadian Hockey League announced that it would be pausing the season until further notice.

The announcement covers all three major junior leagues under the CHL umbrella including the Western Hockey League, the Ontario Hockey League, and the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

Neither the CHL nor the WHL provided further details as to the length of the pause or what factors would be considered in making further determinations in what is an unprecedented move.

“Our goal is to return to play when it safe and reasonable to do so,” WHL Commissioner Ron Robison said via a statement.

Seattle had three remaining home dates on its regular-season home schedule including a game with the Vancouver Giants on Saturday. Overall, the Thunderbirds had five remaining games on the schedule as they were pushing to secure a wild card slot in the Western Conference.

“The health and safety of our fans, team, and staff is of the utmost importance,” Thunderbirds Director of Media Relations, Communications and Digital Media, Ian Henry said Thursday. “As we pause the season to work through a very fluid situation we will share more information when we have it.”

The WHL playoffs were set to begin on March 27th but that date could be in jeopardy with Tuesday’s announcements.

In response to Governor Jay Inslee’s Tuesday announcement that the State of Washington was prohibiting social gatherings of more than 250 people, the WHL and the Thunderbirds had planned on playing home games without fans.

Thursday’s announcement comes on the heels with other sports leagues canceling or pausing their seasons. Most notable was the NBA and NHL who both suspended their leagues in the 24-hours prior to the CHL’s decision.