Bodychecking still not permitted in OHL, minister Lisa MacLeod says

Lisa MacLeod, minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries, speaks at the Home for Heroes Foundation event in Kingston on Tuesday, saying after the event that the ban on bodychecking in the Ontario Hockey League is still in effect. (Ian MacAlpine/The Whig-Standard)

Ian MacAlpine / Ian MacAlpine/Whig-Standard/Postmedia Network

If the Ontario Hockey League returns to play in early February, as is the current plan, bodychecking may still be outlawed.

Lisa MacLeod, the provincial minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries said last month that bodychecking would not be allowed in the OHL due to possible close contact between players amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Tuesday, after speaking at an event in Kingston announcing funding for homeless veterans, MacLeod said the bodychecking ban for return to play is still in effect.

“We continue to work with the OHL on how we might be able to accommodate a return to play,” MacLeod said. “At this point, there has been at the command table that’s led by the health department, no affirmation on their return-to-play model, so we’ll continue to work with them to come to an ability for them to return to play when they desire to do so.”

The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League started on Oct. 1 but has had to pause the season at times while dealing with COVID-19 cases on various teams. The Western Hockey League is to start on Jan. 8.

Both leagues are allowing bodychecking. The champions of all three leagues at the end of the season will play in the Memorial Cup in June, with the host team being either the Oshawa Generals or Soo Greyhounds. The two Ontario teams will be at a disadvantage if bodychecking is to be allowed then, but if the ban is still on in late June, the non-contact style of play could be detrimental to the western and Quebec champions.

The Ontario Junior Hockey League will start in January without bodychecking. The league will also try to eliminate post-whistle scrums or altercations, all players must wear approved “bubble” face mask and facial covering, and masks are to be worn at all times in dressing rooms and other common areas in and around the building.

The Central Canadian Hockey League, which features teams east of Kingston and in the Ottawa area, will also play without body contact.

CCHL commissioner Kevin Abrams of Kingston posted on Twitter on Friday morning that he expects to “resume league-wide action next weekend and hopefully kick off meaningful play by Dec. 4.”

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has prolonged the junior A league’s preseason. Teams were paired up to play a series of scrimmages in which no bodychecking, fighting or scrums along the boards or in front of the net are allowed.

MacLeod said there has been no new information on the OHL bodychecking issue.

“The process is quite complicated and it has been led by (public) health. We just do the stakeholder side of management, making sure when health has questions or additional information, we supply that to the stakeholder.

“So there has been no decision yet by Dr. David Williams or (Minister of Health Christine Elliott). That said, under the current rules that we have, the current emergency order as written would prohibit contact in any sport.”

Josh Sweetland, director of communications for the OHL, said in an email that the matter is yet to be resolved at its end.

“The league continues to work with the government of Ontario and public health agencies to establish an agreed-upon return-to-play protocol and will have no comment on the matter of body contact at this time.”

With a file from Postmedia Network

Maddox Callens of the Kingston Frontenacs tries to get away from Owen Sound Attack’s Adam McMaster during an Ontario Hockey League game in January. (Ian MacAlpine/The Whig-Standard)

Ian MacAlpine /


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