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Rick Zamperin: Ford, MacLeod deliver mixed messages on OHL bodychecking

Prince Albert Raiders' Zack Hayers (5) and Rouyn-Noranda Huskies' Jakoub Lauko collide during Memorial Cup hockey action in Halifax, Monday, May 20, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tim Krochak

The mixed messaging from the provincial government on whether bodychecking will be allowed when the Ontario Hockey League returns to play in the new year during the coronavirus pandemic is downright laughable.

On Friday, in a speech to the Empire Club of Canada, Lisa MacLeod, Ontario’s Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Cultural Industries, said bodychecking will not be allowed.

“Prolonged or deliberate contact while playing sports is not permitted,” said MacLeod. “We’re in a very serious game right now and the reality is we have to take those public health precautions.”

She later tweeted on Friday that the issue “is now settled.”

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However, on Saturday, Premier Doug Ford tweeted that he “would like to see the OHL return as normal as possible with body checking,” and added that “no decisions have been made.”

So which is it?

The fact of the matter is, you can’t play hockey — especially at the OHL level — without “prolonged or deliberate contact.”

Read more: Doug Ford says he hopes Ontario Hockey League can return with bodychecking

Let’s just pretend for a moment that bodychecking will be banned when the puck drops on the next OHL season on Feb. 4.

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Will two or more players be allowed along the boards to dig out a puck that a player is trying to hold with his skate to kill time or allow a teammate or two to change on the fly?

What happens when there is a goalmouth scramble and more than two players are trying to position themselves to either clear the puck or put it in the net?

Click to play video 'OHL start date pushed back to Feb. 4' OHL start date pushed back to Feb. 4
OHL start date pushed back to Feb. 4 – Oct 29, 2020

When there is a key faceoff in the offensive/defensive zone and all six forwards are trying to win the puck, will that be allowed?

And what if there is a bodycheck, incidental or not. Will the offending player get a two-minute penalty? Is that sufficient for breaking a COVID-19 rule?

The novel coronavirus is transmitted through respiratory droplets, so never mind the heavy breathing and non-stop spitting that happens during a hockey game — let’s focus on body contact.

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The Ontario government’s plan for the OHL is 100 per cent certifiably absurd.

Rick Zamperin is the assistant program, news and senior sports director at Global News Radio 900 CHML.