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.