The Ontario government has decided that body checking will not be allowed in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) during the COVID-19 pandemic.
They suggest that the ban would reduce the risk of players contracting COVID-19. This is an untenable and misinformed assumption. It does not hold water.
In hockey, players are regularly in close quarters when they scrum for the puck, especially in the corners. Players will continue to wear the usual face masks but not masks over their nose and mouths. In hockey, you breathe heavily, and, as a player, it would be impractical to cover your mouth with a mask.
Body checking would not bring players in closer contact than is the case during the scrums. In fact, the duration of human contact is much higher during a scrum than during a body check. The duration of contact with someone with COVID-19 is a major determinant of the risk of contracting the virus.
The OHL is the world's leading training league for professional hockey. Body checking is an integral part of OHL hockey and without body checking the OHL would be just another amateur hockey league. It would be more like ringette.
People who argue that the skill in hockey is all in the skating, passing and finesse are misinformed and have likely never played elite men's hockey at this level. They don't understand the skill that is required in delivering an effective body check, nor the importance of body checking in influencing the high level of play required to be an elite player in professional hockey.
If the Ontario government insists on banning body checking from hockey, the OHL should not return to play during the pandemic. The players would not benefit greatly from non-contact hockey, and the fans would not be witnessing the high calibre of play the OHL normally offers. It would not be worth the price of admission.
Many Sudbury Wolves season ticket holders, myself included, are likely to cancel their season tickets if body checking is eliminated from OHL play.
Jim Curry, Sudbury