Ontario Hockey League bans bodychecking to slow spread of COVID-19

Ontario’s minister of sport said in a speech that the Ontario Hockey League will not have bodychecking this season.

Lisa MacLeod told the Empire Club of Canada that removing purposeful physical contact is a necessity for all sports in the province to slow the spread of COVID-19

“Not just in the OHL, not just in hockey in general, but in all sports,” MacLeod said. “We’re in a very serious game right now and the reality is we have to take those public health precautions.”

The OHL announced Thursday that it plans to start a shortened season on Feb. 4, the last of Canada’s three major junior leagues to release a schedule. The OHL is considered a developmental league (ages 16-21) for the National Hockey League.

“Until such time as we arrive at an agreed upon Return to Play protocol with the Government of Ontario, the League will have no further comment on the matter of body contact,” the OHL said in a statement.

The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League season started earlier this month, but the schedule has been affected by several COVID-19 outbreaks as well as provincial government restrictions. After play was restricted to Maritimes Division teams the past two weeks, some Quebec teams are scheduled to resume play this weekend. 

The Western Hockey League plans to start its season on Jan. 8.

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