The Ontario Hockey League announced plans this week for a shortened 2020-21 season with a hopeful February 4 start date.
Assuming that all goes as planned, the game itself is likely to look a little different.
Ontario’s minister of sport, Lisa MacLeod, confirmed on Friday afternoon (via Sportsnet) that bodychecking will not be allowed in the league during this upcoming season. That decision, according to the province, is seen as a necessary step in allowing games to be played and limiting the spread of COVID-19.
That decision was prompted by the fact the QMJHL has had several outbreaks during its return to play this fall.
Like all other sports league, the OHL stopped its 2019-20 season due to the spread of the pandemic.
The league is hoping to report to training camp in late January.
This is not going to be a popular decision among fans, but trying to limit the amount of physical contact during a pandemic does make sense. The question is how much of an impact it ultimately makes, as well as how it well it will be enforced. Even if you do not allow bodychecking, players are still going to spend significant time in close proximity to one another on the ice (face-offs, for example, or any race for a puck). That does not even take into account the far more likely cause of a potential spread, including teammates on sharing the same bench, locker rooms, and any travel that takes place.