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Non-Contact Society, equals Non-Contact Hockey

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In a time of unprecedented behaviour and newly formed ideals due to the COVID-19 pandemic,  every facet of life has been impacted and that includes the game of hockey. A major change  due to COVID-19 restrictions within the sport of hockey are the newly enforced limitations  regarding physical contact in youth and junior hockey. The OHL announced on October 30th  that it would not be allowing body checking or any forms of hitting within league play come the  February 4th start of the season. On top of this all, youth hockey will also not have any body  checking included, as was announced by the Ontario Minister of Sport, Lisa Macleod. While  this drastic decision has its pros and cons, it is clear that this is an unprecedented move and  could shift the dynamics of junior hockey forever. 

Obviously this decision was made with good intentions but for traditionalists, this is a hard pill  to swallow. Body contact has been a massive part of the sport of hockey since its inception,  without it not only will the on-ice presentation completely shift, but it will cause a major change  in player mentality while on the ice. 

Players will no longer be looking over their shoulders when bringing the puck up the ice and will give a distinct disadvantage to defenseman across junior hockey when trying to stop the  offensive rush. No body checking also entails that production from the “enforcer” type player to  be systematically changed. While an enforcer is a controversial role within hockey today, its  value is still immeasurable when competing at the highest levels of hockey.  

Most importantly, this will be not only an adjustment for fans of the sport, but for the players  themselves. Hockey players learn the proper use and mechanics of giving and receiving body  contact at a young age and is a concept that has been ingrained in their psyche for years.  Players will likely have a tough time transitioning to an entirely new style of play and may face  punishment if they have a mental error and end up landing a hard hit on an opposing player  that, under normal circumstances, would earn them praise rather than a penalty. 

Non-Contact Society, equals Non-Contact Hockey 

While this adjustment may take a while to grow on players and fans alike, there are some  definite advantages to this temporary change. While defense may be harder without the ability  to body check, players will learn to adapt and ultimately will walkway from this season with a  far more developed technical skill set when compared to past seasons. Without body contact  players will need to learn and adapt to these changes by working on skills such as defensive  positioning, stick checking, and back checking. With the increase in these skills the on-ice  presentation at the youth and junior levels could be at its peak when it comes to overall skill  demonstrated during gameplay.  

With the increase in skill and hockey IQ, games will become incredibly fast paced and high  scoring. While this may not be everyone's cup of tea, there is no question that the most exciting  part of hockey is seeing the lamp glow red, and without body checking we could see a spike in  goal scoring production across the board within youth and junior hockey. With high scoring  numbers as well as a high speed dynamic, youth/junior hockey could be as exciting as ever  and result in an increase of highlights, media coverage, and fan interactions. 

While this is an unprecedented change within hockey, no matter your opinion on the matter, it  is only temporary. The sport of hockey will continue to have body contact as in several  professional leagues around the world, body checking and physical contact are still prevalent  amidst the pandemic. At the heart of it all, this change was done to protect the players to the  maximum capacity to ensure we are able to have youth and junior hockey up and running this  upcoming season. It is also possible that we can take away several positives from this change  and perhaps learn from this and implement its successes on the game in the future. 

Only time will tell how this change will truly affect the youth and junior hockey world, but rest  assured this season will be one for the history books, regardless of the outcomes.

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