Safety F1rst

USA Hockey Puts Added Focus On Player Safety

In a significant move focused on improving player safety at the youth level, USA Hockey’s board of directors unanimously ratified the Declaration of Player Safety, Fair Play and Respect at its recent Annual Congress.

The move 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. 

Created with input from various constituents within the USA Hockey family, the move is an attempt to clarify that a body check must be an attempt to win possession of the puck and not an effort to punish or intimidate. In addition, USA Hockey is committed to eradicating from the game late hits, hits to the head and hits from behind.

“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.”

One particular point of emphasis will be a crackdown on players who bang the boards with their stick or other object, including skates or arms, at any time, but particularly after a body check is given, regardless of whether a penalty is assessed or not.

“The intent is not to take fun or positive energy out of the game when a great play is made,” Kelleher said in a video posted on the USA Hockey website, “but to recognize this action as unsportsmanlike when done to taunt an opponent or celebrate an unacceptable body check.” 

Over the course of the summer and throughout the upcoming season, USA Hockey will provide video examples and other educational materials to ensure all groups fully understand the principles of the Declaration of Player Safety, Fair Play and Respect.

“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. “All stakeholders in the game of hockey will work together to change culture, promote sportsmanship and ensure mutual respect.” 



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