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WHL commissioner Robison talks return-to-play protocol, COVID-19 testing, border, racism and more

WHL commissioner Ron Robison spoke to media on a zoom call on Thursday, a day after the league’s annual general meeting. Most of the questions addressed return-to-play protocol, with the WHL targeting an Oct.
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WHL commissioner Ron Robison spoke to media on a zoom call on Thursday, a day after the league’s annual general meeting.

Most of the questions addressed return-to-play protocol, with the WHL targeting an Oct. 2 start to the regular season, pending approval from government and health authorities in its six jurisdictions.

Here are a few highlights:

— The league wants to play a full 68-game schedule and Robison said it can do so if starting no later than early December. A later start date than Oct. 2 is possible and modified playoff formats will be considered.

— Robison said the league will wait for all six jurisdictions to get the OK before play begins. He noted that if one jurisdiction is lagging, a later start date may be considered and scheduling adjustments can be made.

— Training camp start dates are fluid, but Robison said camp lengths can be shortened if the regular season start date is pushed back. If the season starts on Oct. 2, training camp will begin on Sept. 15. The later the start date, the shorter the camp.

— Robison said a minimum of 50 per cent capacity in all arenas will be required for play to begin. No scenario is expected to be considered in which a team begins the campaign with a maximum capacity of less than 50 per cent.

— Robison was asked about testing for COVID-19 and its cost. He suggested a screening process will be in place, but testing will not be mandatory unless required under provincial and state guidelines.

— Protocol for positive tests will be revealed at a later date, but will follow provincial and state guidelines.

— As far as scheduling, the commissioner said anything is possible, including increased intra-divisional play.

— A hub-city scenario has not yet been discussed, but discussion is fluid, Robison said. The WHL remains in contact with the Canadian government.

— The league, for now, has not requested special border-crossing exemption, but is monitoring the situation.

— Robison said no date has been set at which the league must cancel the season. The WHL is committed to playing out the season.

— Robison said the WHL will reveal a new program that addresses racism, noting it is not in response to protests and unrest that followed the killing of George Floyd. It has been in the works for the last few months, he said.

— Robison said the league has been in contact with its clubs, along with Hockey Canada, the NHL and CHL, working toward producing a document comprehensive enough to present to governments in its six jurisdictions.

— There has been no discussion yet about banning senior-age staff, such as coaches and GMs, from being around players.

— An announcement on the Portland Winterhawks' situation is expected in the coming weeks.

— The league will not charge players to play