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The National Women’s Hockey League, which planned to start its 2020-21 season in mid-November, will instead start play in January because of the coronavirus pandemic, the league announced Wednesday.

Each of the six NWHL teams will play a 20-game schedule, down from 24 last season, and the playoffs are expected to be completed by the end of March. The NWHL All-Star Game will be held after the playoffs.

Optional on-ice practices and off-ice training will be available to players starting the week of Sept. 21, and formal practices will start the week of Oct. 19. Teams will follow protocols established by infectious disease experts, the league’s medical team and community officials in each market.

Whitecaps forward Allie Thunstrom, a member of the league’s COVID-19 committee, reacted to the developments in a statement.

“We are undoubtedly eager to get back on the ice and can’t wait for the season to start,’’ Thunstrom said. “However, we also recognize the challenges everyone faces by the global health crisis, and we want to ensure that not only are we protected but our fans, media, coaches, support staff, and arena personnel are protected as well. The league has done an awesome job at including us in these discussions. While a slight delay to the start of the season is tough, I feel strongly that everyone’s safety and health will continue to be at the forefront of all decisions.’’