COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – The USA Hockey Board of Directors unanimously ratified the Declaration of Player Safety, Fair Play and Respect at its Board of Directors meeting last Saturday (June 8) in a significant move focused on improving the game at the youth level, particularly related to player safety. The Board meeting was the culmination of the organization’s four-day Annual Congress here that included meetings among USA Hockey’s various committees, sections and councils.
The focus of the Declaration is a concentrated effort to change the culture around body checking and competitive contact at all levels of play and clearly define what is acceptable and unacceptable. The Board’s action makes clear that a body check must be an attempt to win possession of the puck and not an effort to punish or intimidate. Further, USA Hockey is committed to a culture where there are: 1) no late hits 2) no hits to the head and 3) no checking from behind.
“This Declaration was a collaborative effort of the leaders involved with safety, youth hockey, coaching and officiating and is a blueprint for shifting the mindset of body checking in youth hockey,” said Jim Smith, president of USA Hockey. “It is imperative we make some significant changes and this document outlines that way forward.”
Over the course of the summer and through the upcoming season, USA Hockey will work with all constituent groups in providing video examples and other educational materials to ensure all groups fully understand the principles of the Declaration of Player Safety, Fair Play and Respect.
“Safety is always our top priority and our Board took an extremely proactive step with this new initiative,” said Pat Kelleher, executive director of USA Hockey. “This Declaration is the culmination of a lot of hard work by many groups over many months that resulted in moving something forward that is in the best interest of our youth players.”
“USA Hockey has a strong commitment to player safety and this Declaration is an important step forward,” said Dr. Michael Stuart, chief medical and safety officer for USA Hockey, who is also the co-director of sports medicine at the Mayo Clinic. “All stakeholders in the game of hockey will work together to change culture, promote sportsmanship and ensure mutual respect.”
DIVERSITY & INCLUSION
USA Hockey’s Annual Congress also included significant discussion around diversity and inclusion and efforts to address changing demographics and attracting additional groups to the sport. The dialogue was guided in part from the organization’s strong partnership with the NHL and the shared focus of the two groups on making sure hockey is for everyone.
“We’re excited about taking the next step in advancing our efforts around diversity and inclusion and the focus on those efforts during our Annual Congress put a positive spotlight on some of our opportunities for additional progress,” said Kelleher. “Adding Stephanie Jackson as our first director of diversity and inclusion is an important step as we continue to move forward on these important topics to help make our sport better and even more inclusive.”
The Board learned that the 2018-19 season included a record 567,908 players. The total includes a record 123,303 at the 8U entry level and also a record 181,765 adult players. In addition, the number of girls and women playing increased by more than 4% overall from 2017-18 to a record 82,808. The number of coaches and officials also increased over 2017-18, with more than 60,000 coaches and 25,000 officials part of USA Hockey.
At Saturday’s (June 8) Board of Directors meeting, the Board also:
• Re-elected Bill Hall (Ocean Isle Beach, N.C.) as secretary
• Re-elected Gavin Regan (Potsdam, N.Y.) as vice president and chair of the international council
• Re-elected Donna Kaufman (Tacoma, Wash.) as vice president and chair of the junior council
• Re-elected Bruce Urban (Queen Creek, Ariz.) and Shelley Looney (Kenmore, N.Y.) to the two available director at-large positions
• Elected George Atkinson (Spring Lake, Mich.) as director representative to the executive committee
• Affirmed the following as athlete directors: Robert Esche (Whitesboro, N.Y.), Jenny Potter (Minneapolis, Minn.), Craig Brady (Rochester, N.H.), Jim Slater (Lapeer, Mich.), Caitlin Cahow(Chicago, Ill.), John Michael-Liles (Vail, Colo.), Lyndsey Fry (Chandler, Ariz.) and Brianne Bittle-McLaughlin (Moon Township, Pa.)
• Affirmed Taylor Lipsett (McKinney, Texas) and Molly Engstrom (Siren, Wis.) as athlete representatives to the executive committee
• Elected Al Murdoch (Ames, Iowa) and Tom Lenz (Vienna, Va.) as director emeritus
NOTES: During Saturday’s Board of Directors meeting, Jim Smith presented President’s Awards to longtime Board members Bill Daly (Montville, N.J.) and Jenny Potter (Minneapolis, Minn.), as well as USA Hockey staff members Dana Ausec, Pam Gibson and Jodie Penn . . . The USA Hockey Annual Congress included two significant award dinners and details can be found below.
Even with almost 50 years of involvement in hockey, you can’t plan for the current state of the world and the impact coronavirus has had on our game. I think it is safe to say that nothing prepares you for the changes that have taken place in our daily lives and the uncertainty of when things might return to normal. Or in this case, what will become the new “normal.”
Our expertise is hockey, so what we’ll address in this piece: the impact of the global pandemic on our game and how likely it will affect our game in the immediate future.
USA Hockey continues to post information on COVID-19 on the main website. These updates keep our membership informed of specific programs and the changing safety recommendations that will be in place when hockey returns. Be sure to check back regularly for updates and other hockey information.
On the officiating front, much of what we are able to do from a program standpoint is connected to player events like national tournaments and player development camps. As you know, the national tournaments (along with the March, April and May IIHF World Championship events) were cancelled. The Officiating Program then canceled our two instructor training programs that were planned for late April and early May in Lake Placid, N.Y., and Colorado Springs, Colo.
At this time, details for any potential summer development camps are still being determined. On the player side, several camps we are connected to were cancelled, and the few camps that are still in planning have been dramatically downsized. The Officiating Program continues to monitor the decisions made for players and will take advantage of any opportunity we have to salvage our summer camp program and maximize participation.
The good news is, we are confident we will have a 2020-21 season. All indications show no reason to delay registration. It will open as scheduled on or around May 26, followed by the open book exams and online seminar curriculum on June 1.
SafeSport Training (required for anyone born in the year 2003 or earlier) and background screening (learn about the new national level screening program in the Q & A section) will also be available to complete at that time. If COVID-19 still has things slowed down in early June, it would be an ideal time to get these requirements completed.
The biggest unknown will be the timing in which we will be able to conduct seminars. The vast majority of rinks are currently closed, and many of them took this opportunity to remove ice to save operating costs and do maintenance. There is now doubt they will be prepared to quickly ramp up once they are allowed to do so, but as with most everything right now, the timing is uncertain. As a result, some of the earlier seminars may be pushed back a few weeks. The District Referees-in-Chief will secure ice times and facilities so we can provide seminar dates and locations as quickly as possible. We are also encouraging our instructors to think outside the box by providing some weeknight seminar options, and to look at other ways to best meet the needs of our members.
The Advanced Officiating Symposium, scheduled for Providence, R.I. in late July, is still going to plan. We will continue to monitor the situation, including local restrictions and travel advisories in the coming weeks, and we will announce any changes in advance to allow for alterations to travel arrangements. Click here for up-to-date information or to reserve your seat at the 2020 Advanced Officiating Symposium.
These are difficult times for everyone, and although our hockey family is important to us, it is a small fraction of the big picture that is impacting our daily lives. To quote Andy Dufresne in his letter for Red that he left under the big oak tree in The Shawshank Redemption: “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”
We hope you and your loved ones are safe and healthy. We hope the coronavirus is conquered with minimal loss of lives and a return to a prosperous normal as soon as possible. We hope your passion for the game of hockey will only grow as a result of its absence. We hope we are back on the ice in the coming months and that the 2020-21 season will be our best yet.
Thank you for your continued support of USA Hockey and don’t hesitate to contact us if there is anything we can do to make your hockey experience a better one. In the meantime, stay safe, stay healthy and be prepared to be back on the ice soon.
In order to comply with new requirements from the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC), USA Hockey will be implementing a national level background screening program. This program will replace all USAH Affiliate coordinated background screen programs.
Why must officials be screened?
Per USA Hockey and USOPC policy, all coaches, officials, board members, employees, volunteers, billets and anyone else who will have regular contact with, or authority over, minor athletes are required to submit a background screen before any contact with minor athletes.
Who is required to be screened?
Officials who are 18 years-old (or older) prior to June 1 of the current year.
Any official, 18 years-old (or older) without a completed valid background screen (national or USAH Affiliate coordinated) after April 1, 2019.
All national background screens are valid for two seasons, and starting on June 1, 2020 a national background screen must be completed and in good standing before receiving an officiating card and crest.
What are the timelines for launching the national background screen program?
Beginning on April 1, 2020, background screening will be conducted by our national background screen vendor, National Center for Safety Initiatives (NCSI), and information on background screening will be included following your registration.
As of March 22, 2020, applicants will no longer be able to submit new USA Hockey background screens through USAH Affiliate vendors, and will not be able to submit new screens through NCSI until April 1, 2020.
If you were screened after April 1, 2019 for the 2019-20 season, your screen is valid for the 2020-21 season, and you will not need to be screened under the new system until prior to the 2021-22 season. If your most recent screen is from prior to April 1, 2019, you will need to be screened under the new system, after April 1, 2020, in order to participate in the upcoming season.
All new screens submitted through the new NCSI national screening program after April 1, 2020 will be valid for two seasons. For example, a screen submitted and approved on April 15, 2020 will be valid through the end of the 2021-22 season, which is August 31, 2022.
How can members complete their required background screen?
A link to submit for screening will be included in your membership registration confirmation email and posted in the drop-down menu under the OFFICIALS tab at USAHockey.com.
Background screens through NCSI under the national program will cost $30 for all domestic screens. For international screens (members who have lived outside of the U.S. for six consecutive months in any one county during the past 7 years) the flat rate fee is $150. If that country is solely Canada, the flat rate fee is $75.
Where can members go with questions about the national background screen program?
Please refer to the USA Hockey Background Screen webpage at USAHockey.com.