Commissioner Ron Robison confident WHL will drop the puck on Jan. 8

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“They’ve been very appreciative of the position we’re in where we’re a spectator-dependent league,” Robison said. “There will be provision for spectators, but we have not worked out the details at this stage.”

Elsewhere, the OHL’s restart plan is being hampered by the Ontario government’s position that it is not yet prepared to endorse bodychecking.

Robison said there has not been “any discussion at all” about eliminating body contact in the west.

However, the WHL does face a potential issue with current travel restrictions that make it difficult for American and European players to enter Canada.

Talks with the federal government are ongoing.

“We’re hopeful to get a resolution on that soon,” Robison said.

Although the WHL has expressed confidence that its start date will come to fruition, there are plenty of unknowns as COVID-19 numbers continue to rise across the country, including Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

There are even greater concerns in Quebec, where the QMJHL opened its season on Oct. 2 but had two teams halt activities due to outbreaks within the first week.

The QMJHL is now dealing with a partial government-mandated shutdown for teams that reside in COVID hot zones. The WHL hopes to avoid similar cancellations but it’s also prepared to roll with the punches whenever possible.

“(Those issues) are concerning because obviously we all want the number of cases to be reduced,” Robison said. “Those are some of the areas that are outside of our control as you’re witnessing in the Quebec league.

“We’re going to have to be very flexible through the course of the season and make adjustments as required. We’re very conscious of that. That would be part of our protocols to make sure we are prepared to make those adjustments should we encounter a higher level of cases than expected.”