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.”