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The Official's Corner - July 2019

By Eugene Binda, 07/09/19, 8:00AM EDT


Something You Should Know

BOSTON, MA -- At the Annual USA Hockey Congress held in Colorado Springs player safety was hot topic and body checking took up much of the discussion over the four-day event.

USA Hockey has put at the forefront a ‘Declaration of Player Safety, Fair Play and Respect’ in regards to the body checking breaking down checking into two categories: “Completive Contact” and “Body Checking”.

Officials, coaches, and league administrators will be sending the message at the seminars and reinforcing the fact that all parties need to be on board with the new declaration. We all understand body checking is part of the game what we are trying to eliminate is the blow up hit. Body checking is to gain possession of the puck and not to punish or intimidate an opponent.

Here are the first two paragraphs from the declaration:

“USA Hockey is committed to creating a safe and fair environment for all participants. Respect for the game, the opponents, coaches and officials is a critical part of the environment that is created and it covers several different aspects of sportsmanship and fair play. This initiative will encourage a change in culture as to what is considered to be acceptable/unacceptable body checking and competitive contact at all levels of play.

The following “points of emphasis” is not designed to replace our current rules/definitions, but instead are intended clarify and update the existing rules/definitions to emphasize the key points to more clearly outline what is deemed acceptable and unacceptable behavior. USA Hockey will also provide video examples of these actions deemed “acceptable” and “unacceptable” to further illustrate expected behavior. Please review the materials thoroughly so you can play a positive role in making our game safer.”

The declaration’s focus is to change the culture surrounding body checking and competitive contact while clearly defining what is acceptable and what is not. The Board of Governors’ statement emphasizes that a check must be “an 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.”

More information and educational resources will be rolled out through the summer and into the season.

“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.”

For those officials who are currently USA Registered or Members of National Ice Hockey Officials (NIHOA) Association who are interested in advancing to the junior and collegiate levels, we have several tournaments starting in July and at midget and junior level the tournaments that will include secondary training on player safety, game management, and on ice mechanics for all officiating systems. After successful completion of the classes you will added to the staffs at the junior level to The United States Premier Hockey League and The Eastern Hockey League, which are the training leagues for Atlantic Hockey League.

All the training is free of charge and if you are capable of meeting the requirements I will also add you to the staffs of College Hockey America a Division 1 Women’s League and the following men’s leagues; The Division 2 North East 10 and at the Division 3 The North East Conference and the Massachusetts College Athletic Conference.

For those interested please contact me at trainings will start with classroom training in May at the Foxboro Arena and The Atlantic Hockey Office in Winthrop, MA.