WHL Commissioner Ron Robison spent part of Thursday afternoon trying to answer many questions that have come up since the league announced it would start the 2020-21 season on January 8.
During a Zoom call, Robison said the January 8 date is a firm date and not a tentative one, and that the biggest challenge now is working with health authorities in the various provinces and states that have member clubs.
While the plan is to have a 50-game schedule, Robison says more details will come on that next month as conversations continue with those health officials. One of the questions regards what the Brandon Wheat Kings and Winnipeg Ice will be doing seeing teams are not to supposed to be crossing provincial borders.
“The health officials in Saskatchewan and Manitoba have been very positive and co-operative and respectful of the position we find ourselves in.” Robison said. “We are working through that issue which is one reason why we can’t be in a position to release more details on a schedule. We are at different stages in those discussions with the two provinces, but expect a decision on that soon so we can move forward with scheduling.”
Another question revolves attendance and whether or not fans will be allowed to the various rinks to watch their teams play.
Robison says they would like to have a 50 percent figure.
“That’s our objective, but we recognize that ultimately that decision will be made by the various health authorities.” Robison said. “Those discussions are ongoing and we are looking forward to getting some clarification on that soon. It may be less than 50 percent though just given the health restrictions that are in effect currently.”
When it comes to playoffs and crowning a league champion, Robison says there is one major hurdle which needs to be cleared.
“It all comes down to the border opening. That is significant because of our five American-based teams. We need to have the border open to have a full playoff.” Robison said. “In the event, we are not successful, we would have to come up with an alternate format for playoffs which may include declaring divisional champions. It isn’t something we are contemplating at this time though as we are hoping to stage four rounds of playoffs like we normally do, crowning a champion and then heading to Ontario for the Memorial Cup in June.”