The emphasis of inclusivity at Hockey Canada Skills Academies has helped to foster a positive culture almost entirely devoid of discrimination and maltreatment
At the beginning of each school year, Ryan Miller delivers the same speech
to his Hockey Canada Skills Academy (HCSA) students at Osoyoos Elementary
School in Osoyoos, B.C.
“We talk about what a privilege it is to be a part of an organization like
Hockey Canada,” says Miller, who has helmed the hockey academy at Osoyoos
Elementary for over a decade. “It is one of the top sports organizations in
the world, and if you doubt that, go visit the [Hockey Canada] Hall of
Champions in Calgary.
“I tell them that Hockey Canada creates a culture that values hard work and
respect for every individual at the table.”
This past June, the national sports organization made a momentous step to
forge a safer, more respectful and inclusive on-ice culture in Canada.
Approval was granted for the adoption of Section 11 – Maltreatment
in the Hockey Canada rulebook, which brings all forms of mistreatment under
one umbrella. There are clear penalties for inappropriate behaviour from
players and team officials.
There is also a new reporting system that will make it easier to report
discriminatory incidents. Hockey Canada, like everyone, wants rinks free of
discrimination based on race, ethnic origin, skin colour, religion, age,
sexual orientation, gender identity and disability.
“Hockey Canada has made a firm commitment to making the game safe and
inclusive for all who wish to participate, and the introduction of Section
11 provides our 13 Members, local hockey associations and officials across
the country with clearly-defined criteria for enforcing rules related to
many different forms of inappropriate conduct,” Hockey Canada CEO Tom
Renney said when the rule was announced. “We believe this is a great step
towards ensuring we limit the number of incidents that occur on and off the
ice and will allow players of all ages to enjoy our game free from abuse,
discrimination, racism and all forms of maltreatment.”
These changes delight Miller.
“We are seeing a change in what is accepted and not accepted. It’s nice you
are seeing changes at the elite level and it is starting to trickle down to
the grassroots. I still think we have a long way to go, but I do believe
with so many things happening around the world with Truth and
Reconciliation, and Black Lives Matter, that more awareness is out there
and people are seeking to understand.”
Inclusiveness has always been a bedrock principle of HCSA institutions from
coast to coast to coast, so it is perhaps not surprising that longtime
instructors have rarely had to troubleshoot discrimination incidents on the
David Ruggiero, the longtime HCSA coordinator for Central Okanagan Public
Schools up until 2019, says he “wracked his brain,” but he can’t think of
one discriminatory incident in his 19 years involved in HCSA education. He
continues to work as a part-time on-ice lead.
“From the start, we had a lot of international students participate. This
year we have one [Mexican player] who played roller hockey before, so he is
learning ice hockey this year and is doing a good job.
“The way we start the year is a talk in the classroom about the privilege
of being in this program and the privilege of travelling away from the
school to participate in the program. While you are at the arena, you are
still a member of School District 23, so the rules and principles that
apply in the classroom apply here.”
One protocol installed in the Central Okanagan Public Schools system to
deal with any form of bullying in the HCSA program is having the
vice-principal of each school involved in the disciplinary process, if
necessary. This ensures the school’s senior administration leaders are
invested in ensuring the culture within school walls, and the culture at
the arena remain in alignment.
Ultimately, inspiring students to invest in the notion of being
standard-bearers of respect is key to inspiring HCSA programs devoid of
maltreatment, says Miller.
“We talk about how we create a culture of safety and respect. Every day we
don’t really get to choose what happens to us, but we get to choose our
attitude and effort, and that dictates what we do with what happens to us.
“We want to create a thinking culture. They are the bosses of themselves,
so they get to decide if they want to follow me or not. I talk about how I
hope to have proven myself to be trustworthy, organized and hardworking,
and that I am someone who they want to follow. We want to be thinking when
we watch drills, and we want to think about how to support our teammates