OTTAWA -- The Ontario Government says there will be no body-checking allowed when the Ontario Hockey League returns to the ice for a shortened season during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The OHL announced Thursday its Return to Play plan, including a 40-game regular season starting February 4.

On Friday. Minister of Sport Lisa MacLeod said Ontario will not allow players to body-check on the ice during the season.

MacLeod says that removing contact from the game was a necessary step to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“I’m a hockey player myself, my daughter plays hockey; I don’t have a problem with checking in normal times. We have decided to ban contact sports and combat sports at the moment, and the safe return for all sports is limiting the contact between players," MacLeod told CTV News Ottawa.

Macleod says several COVID-19 outbreaks among Quebec Major Junior Hockey League teams this fall influenced the Ontario Government's decision.

CTV News Ottawa reached out to the Ontario Hockey League for comment on MacLeod’s statement that there will be no body-checking when the OHL returns to the ice.

"Until such time as we arrive at an agreed upon Return to Play protocol with the Government of Ontario, the League will have no further comment on the matter of body contact,” the OHL said in a statement Friday evening.