Safety and player development dominated conversations during USA Hockey’s four-day Annual Congress in Colorado Springs, Colorado, which concluded Saturday (June 8). In addition, the organization reported a record number of players for 2013-14.
“We’re focused on ensuring the safest possible environment and providing a development program that helps players of all ability levels reach their full potential,” said Ron DeGregorio, president of USA Hockey. “That focus was very evident during our Annual Congress.”
“With the work of our volunteers across the country as well as the support from partners like the National Hockey League, those in our corporate partner family and rink owners, to name a few, we continue to innovate and grow,” said Dave Ogrean, executive director of USA Hockey. “We’re also committed to the use of technology, particularly as it relates to the education of coaches, players, officials and parents.”
On the safety front, USA Hockey’s board of directors unanimously supported the hiring of a national safety director that will lead the organization’s efforts related to both on- and off-ice safety.
In addition, the board approved strengthening rules to influence the reduction of fighting in junior hockey, including adding a 10-minute misconduct to any fighting major at the Tier I and Tier II level beginning in 2014-15.
“Our efforts in player safety include a concerted focus on eliminating dangerous behavior in junior hockey,” said John Vanbiesbrouck, vice president of USA Hockey and chair of the Junior Council. “We’re making significant and continued progress, and from my standpoint as a parent, that’s a real positive.”
Another safety-related item reviewed by USA Hockey’s board of directors was the Look-Up Line, a proposed ice marking that extends 40 inches in width from the bottom of the kick plate of the boards that is “safety” orange in color. The intent is to affect the reduction of head and neck injuries. The board passed a policy statement that allows use of the Look-Up Line line and encourages rinks that utilize the mark to report pertinent observations to the USA Hockey Look-Up Line Safety Task Force.
“There was terrific collaboration on the topic of safety,” said Dr. Michael Stuart, chief medical officer of USA Hockey. “We continue to make progress on all fronts and that is extremely pleasing to see.”
The visibility provided by the Olympic Winter Games, coupled with robust efforts in attracting new players to the game and an innovative development program contributed to record numbers for USA Hockey in 2013-14.
The final record player count -- including youth, junior and adult-aged players -- was 519,417 in 2013-14, eclipsing the previous high mark of 511,178 established in 2011-12.
In addition, the total number of players, coaches and officials part of USA Hockey finished at 598,841 in 2013-14, beating the previous best of 594,959 from the 2011-12 campaign.
USA Hockey also set a new mark for total numbers overall, inclusive of players, coaches, officials, administrators, team managers/volunteers, and parents. The final tally of 1,075,424 surpassed the former high of 1,061,130 established last season.
Three officer positions were up for election and the board unanimously re-elected both Jim Smith (treasurer) and Larry Reid (vice president, marketing council chair). In addition, Charlie Fuertsch was elected to replace retiring Peter Lindberg as vice president/legal council chair.
Donna Guariglia was elected as the director representative to the executive committee; Shawna Davidson and Dave Meisner were re-elected as director at-large; Jenny Potter was re-elected as the athlete director representative on the executive committee; Joe Bertagna and Mike Snee were elected as NCAA directors, while Bill Daly and Don Fehr were re-elected as professional sports organizations directors. Athlete directors elected to the board included Taylor Chace, Chris Clark, Manny Guerra, Meghan Duggan, Shelley Looney, and Blake Sloan.
NOTES: USA Hockey had a record year in sponsorship revenue with final totals up 26% over the 2012-13 season and 38% over the previous Olympic year (2010). In addition, sales at the organization’s online store – ShopUSAHockey.com – were up 80% over last year and 30% above the previous Olympic year … Peter Lindberg was honored during the board of directors meeting in recognition of his contributions to the organization. He has been USA Hockey’s only legal council chair and previously served in multiple capacities with Minnesota Hockey, including as president … President’s Awards were bestowed on T.C. Lewis and Jim Johannson for outstanding contribution to USA Hockey … Representatives of 21 of the 23 U.S.-based NHL teams participated in USA Hockey’s Annual Congress. The only exceptions were the New York Rangers and L.A. Kings, the two teams currently playing in the Stanley Cup Finals … The board voted both Peter Lindberg and Brad Bekkedahl as director emeritus.