The Western Hockey League said Thursday they need buildings at a minimum 50 per cent capacity in order to play a season this year. They are targeting Oct. 2 for the start of the 2020-21 season. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)

WHL needs rinks at half capacity for season to go-ahead

Commissioner Ron Robison discussed league return to play protocol Thursday

The Western Hockey League has long acknowledged how important fans are to its product.

Thursday, 24 hours after the league released an outline of its return to play protocols, commissioner Ron Robison held a zoom call with reporters to provide further details on the plan, one of which was addressing fans.

Much of what the league provided reiterated what they said Wednesday, including the desire to start the 2020-21 season on Oct. 2, as well as the intention to play a 68-game season.

In his address Thursday, Robison stressed the need to have fans in the building if the league is to play and for buildings to be at least at 50 per cent capacity when they do start.

“As a spectator driven league, we need spectators in order to make it work. That is a key criteria. There is essentially two key criteria in our return to play protocol, number one is to demonstrate to the health authorities in each of our jurisdictions that we can return in a safe and responsible manner,” Robison said on the call.

“Secondly, to arrive at a capacity that will allow our teams to resume operations. We have set approximately 50 per cent as a minimum capacity that we require in order for that to happen.”

In Red Deer, the Centrium has a nearly 7,000 seat capacity for hockey. Last year, the Rebels averaged close to 4,000 fans in according to hockey website HockeyDB.

Robison said if they are able to start the year on Oct. 2, training camps would be two weeks and likely start on Sept. 15. In a case where the season was to be delayed, even as late as December, the commissioner said they would still be committed to a 68-game season.

The commissioner did express that they are considering a scenario where teams play only within their division for the first portion of the season, to limit the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on play.

He also explained that the opening of the U.S.- Canada border was another key piece of the league returning to regular play in October. As of now, they are hoping to have a better picture by august or September about whether they will need to make different arrangements for play with the five American-based teams.

Robison noted Thursday they expect to have results from the task forces that have been set up in each of the six jurisdictions (four provinces and two states) in the next 30 days, which will help them proceed with a return to play plan. Part of that included COVID-19 screening for players and fans but no testing is necessary unless it is required by the local health authorities.

Even with the proposed start date, Robison noted the start date is extremely fluid and might need to be adjusted for a number of reasons.

“I think everyone understands how flexible we need to be in these circumstances and if we have a delayed start, that we’re going to rely on the buildings to open up and give us the necessary flexibility we’re going to need to make adjustments overall to what our schedule looks like,” he said.

“That is something we’re going to be addressing once we find out how our discussion is going with government and what the prospects of the start time will be.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. NDP leader John Horgan and B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau. (Black Press Media)
VIDEO: One day until B.C. voters go to the polls in snap election defined by pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan’s decision to call an election comes more than a year ahead of schedule and during a pandemic

Alice Kolisnyk, deputy director of the Red Deer Food Bank, says the agency expects an increase in demand as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Every new subscription to the Red Deer Advocate includes a $50 donation to the food bank. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Support the food bank with a subscription to the Red Deer Advocate

The community’s most vulnerable members are always in need of a hand,… Continue reading

Mariah Bell of the United States competes during women’s freestyle program in the International Skating Union Grand Prix of Figure Skating Series Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/David Becker)
Canadian Keegan Messing earns bronze at Skate America in Vegas, Chen wins gold

Messing earns 266.42 points at Skate America in Las Vegas

In this Oct. 7, 2020 photo, chef Sohla El-Waylly prepares Swedish meatballs during a taping of “Stump Sohla,” in New York. El-Waylly became a familiar face on YouTube as a standout on Bon Appetit’s test kitchen channel. But during the nationwide racial reckoning following the police killing of George Floyd, she was among members of the test kitchen who accused the channel’s owner, Conde Nast, of discriminatory practices. She departed Bon Appetit in August after failed negotiations. Her new show is her own, pushing her to deploy her talent, charm and encyclopedic culinary chops to solve challenges. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
‘Babish’ expands as pandemic boosts YouTube cooking shows

Daily views of videos with “cook with me” soaring

FILE - Oprah Winfrey arrives for the presentation of Stella McCartney’s ready-to-wear Fall-Winter 2019-2020 fashion collection in Paris on March 4, 2019. Winfrey is setting aside her usual book club recommendations and instead citing seven personal favorites ranging from James Baldwin’s landmark essays in “The Fire Next Time” to Mary Oliver’s poetry collection “Devotions.” She is calling her choices “The Books That See Me Through,” works she values for “their ability to comfort, inspire, and enlighten” her. (AP Photo/Michel Euler, File)
`The books that see her through’: Winfrey suggests seven

Mix of fiction, poetry, non-fiction and spirituality

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
John Horgan says he will work across party lines to find ideas that work for B.C.

VICTORIA — British Columbia’s election results show a divided province with Liberal… Continue reading

President Donald Trump gestures from the top of the steps of Air Force 1 at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020. When people in the United States talk about moving to Canada to escape four more years of Donald Trump, it’s usually either a punchline or a pipe dream. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Susan Walsh
Move to Canada? A pipe dream for some Americans is a parachute for Canadian expats

WASHINGTON, Wash. — When people in the United States talk about moving… Continue reading

The Cogeco logo is seen in Montreal on Thursday, October 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Five things to watch for in the Canadian business world in the coming week

TORONTO — Five things to watch for in the Canadian business world… Continue reading

Most Read