When USA Hockey president Jim Smith issued a directive back on Oct. 30 to increase the penalty for use of language that is offensive, hateful, or discriminatory, it was a proactive step in addressing efforts to eliminate behavior contrary to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment that has been the baseline of the organization’s more than 80-year history.
Smith indicated at the time that his directive was part of an overall effort that also included an education component to help all involved with USA Hockey understand cultural differences that contribute to enhancing a positive environment.
“We have what I believe is the best sport on the planet,” said Smith, “and we’re excited about the future, one that includes more multicultural players, coaches, officials and volunteer leaders. As we become more diverse, it’s important that everyone understand the differences that together make us stronger.”
In the immediate future, the education component Smith references will be rolled out and implemented in phases. The organization’s leaders believe the effort is critical in continuing to grow and better the sport.
“Having experts in the field that help us all more thoroughly understand cultural differences is an important part of the process,” said Smith.
“The first groups that we’ll roll this program out to will be our national office staff, executive committee and board of directors,” said Pat Kelleher, executive director of USA Hockey. “We’ll follow with our 34 Affiliates, which is the group that provides the governance of our sport at the state and local level across the country. And ultimately, we’ll be building a platform for our entire membership to receive this education.
“Our role as a national governing body is wide-ranging,” notes Kelleher. “Included among our many priorities are ensuring a diverse and inclusive environment, making sure we have the safest possible environment both on and off the ice, growing the game, and providing the best development program. Our sport contributes in so many positive ways to the fabric of society, and as we continue to pave the way for the future, the education effort we’re undertaking to help us all understand the cultural differences that make us stronger is another initiative that will make us better.”