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USA Hockey Board Launches New Initiative on Safety, Fair Play and Respect

By USA Hockey and Minnesota Hockey, 07/09/19, 10:45AM CDT


The USA Hockey Board of Directors unanimously ratified the Declaration of Player Safety, Fair Play and Respect at its Board of Directors meeting on June 8 in a significant move focused on improving the game at the youth level, particularly related to player safety.

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 on the initiative.

“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.”

The Declaration does not include any rule changes. Instead, it features “points of emphasis” designed to clarify and update the existing rules/definitions. Below are examples of key points in the declaration:

  • Legal body contact occurs between two or more skaters who are in the immediate vicinity of the puck and who are both in the normal process of playing the puck.
  • A body check represents intentional physical contact by a skater to an opponent who is in control of the puck. The opposing player’s objective is to gain possession of the puck with a legal body check and NOT to punish or intimidate an opponent.
  • When determining whether a body check (or body contact) has occurred, the official must focus on whether the player is attempting to play the puck and whether there is any overt hip, shoulder or forearm action used to initiate contact and separate the opponent from the puck.
  • Under no circumstance is it acceptable to deliver a body check to a vulnerable or defenseless opponent, an opponent who is not in possession and control of the puck (late hit) or to use the hands, stick, forearm or elbow in delivering a check to an opponent.
  • A skater is considered to be in a vulnerable or defenseless position when he is unaware, unprepared, or unsuspecting of an impending hit.
  • Banging on the board with a stick or other object will be recognized as unsportsmanlike conduct when done to taunt an opponent or celebrate an unacceptable body check.

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