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Would the OHL Really Return With No Body Contact?

Start dates for Canadian junior hockey leagues are all over the map, but only one Province has pre-maturely banned contact. The OHL.

The sporting domain is normally built on schedules, seasons, and orderliness. Since March of 2020 that tidiness has been ripped away from every sport at every level. As leagues try to regain normalcy, they are now having to abide by decisions made from experts outside of the sport. Some of these decisions are as erratic and sporadic as the sporting schedules themselves.

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Nowhere is that more evident than in the major junior hockey ranks here in Canada. The QMJHL season in Quebec and the Maritime’s has started, but so far the season has been the opposite of orderly. The WHL, with four provinces and three states, might have the toughest regulatory hurdles to jump once they get up an running. The newest start date set by the WHL is now January 8th, 2021. 

The OHL Outlook

Meanwhile, the Ontario Hockey League has pushed its opening day back further and will now be the last (at this point) major junior league in Canada to begin. For now, the OHL is set to start on February 4th, 2021. Despite the late start date, a potential OHL return has created a buzz as Ontario Minister of Sport, Lisa MacLeod, said Friday that the OHL can start in February with the caveat that “prolonged or deliberate contact while playing sports is not permitted.” In other words, the OHL can play provided there is no body contact.

My first reaction was and still is: what’s the difference? What is the difference between incidental contact, or lining up on a face off or any of the other myriad of scenarios where the virus might be transmitted Again, the ruling has drawn a ton of attention – most of it of the vitriol nature. Maybe MacLeod will announce a reasonable explanation, but at this point the inaccuracy of this ruling seems to be a derivative of experience. Or lack thereof.

Those who have played hockey, at any level, know that contact is inherently unavoidable. Especially at higher levels of play as the speed of the game increases – like the OHL and especially the NHL! In the end, reason should reign as this new ‘law’ does not make much sense. Either play the game normally if it is safe to do so, or don’t.

My guess is that Minister MacLean’s presiding on this issue will not last long anyway. Ontario Premier, Doug Ford, contradicted the decision a day later so it could get overruled sooner rather than later.

Yes, 2020 strikes again.

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