Photo: Wayne Moore / File
WHL Commissioner Ron Robison
The owners of the 22 teams that make up the Western Hockey League face “significant financial losses” during the brief regular season.
The health authorities in the four provinces will determine how deep those losses will be, plus the states of Washington and Oregon will sue those teams.
Following the unveiling of two provisional returns to the game dates, WHL announced that it would definitely start the game on Wednesday, January 8th.
During a conference call on Thursday, league commissioner Ron Robison acknowledged that although the league hopes to achieve its goal of having 50 percent fan capacity by that date, it may not happen everywhere.
“We eventually realized that it would be determined through our discussions with health officials,” Robison said.
“Those discussions are ongoing and we look forward to some clarification on this soon. However, this figure could be as low as 50 percent, given the current health restrictions in various provinces and states.”
Robison said it will be challenging for employers to navigate over the next few months, but does not believe any of the clubs are in danger of collapsing.
“These are very difficult situations that we have found in ourselves. From an ownership standpoint, I admire their commitment to the players, to start the season and thereby work our way through.
“But, all of our clubs are going to have significant financial losses without question.”
The plan, drawn up by the Robinson League, has a maximum 50-game schedule ending May 2.
Teams play in their own divisions during the regular season to eliminate border travel, which in most cases is not allowed. The League works with the governments of Saskatchewan and Manitoba to facilitate travel between provinces to accommodate teams in the Eastern Division, including two clubs in Manitoba and five clubs in Saskatchewan.
As for the playoffs, Robison said the league could implement a full playoff schedule, but agreed that those talks had not yet taken place internally.
“Of course, it depends on the staging of the Memorial Cup and its ability to have full inter-conference playoffs with the opening of the border … whether it will be operational at that time.
“We have to make that decision next season.”
With six jurisdictions at different points in the recovery, the Robinson League is said to be in coordination between different protocols in different provinces and sports and between games.
Those details, he said, are still being worked out.
Although the league has not yet gone to various levels of government for financial assistance, Robison said fan capacity could change if the league is less than expected.