Welcome to the 2015-16 Season: A Letter from AHAI President, John Dunne

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Welcome to another season of Youth and Girls’ Hockey in Illinois. As always it’s a very busy time of year as teams are forming and everyone is getting to know teammates, coaches and other parents. Again this season, the focus for AHAI is player safety, member conduct and communication of information with our AHAI membership.

This season will bring a renewed focus on spectator conduct. Last season saw the high water mark for reported inappropriate conduct. With that, the following AHAI Parent/Spectator Suspension Rule has been put in place:

A game will be stopped by on-ice officials when the parents/spectators displaying inappropriate or disruptive behavior interfere with other parents/spectators or the game. The on-ice officials will identify violators to the coaches for the purpose of removing parents/spectators from the parents’/spectators’ viewing and game area. Once removed, play will resume. Lost time will not be replaced. Violators will incur a minimum mandatory 3-game suspension from that team’s games and may be subject to further disciplinary action by the local governing body. 

The reasons for this necessary minimum 3-game suspension rule are simple; last season there was a marked increase in parents’/spectators’ behavior being out of control. These behaviors included verbal and physical altercations with officials, players and other spectators. Additionally clubs/teams that have a responsibility to help control and penalize these behaviors were asking for guidance from AHAI. 

No matter why a spectator is asked to leave, the minimum suspension is 3 games. There is emphasis on a minimum of 3 games.

Here is how the reporting system works:

An official will file an electronic “Incident Report” detailing the official’s version of the occurrence with the AHAI R&E Committee. The Committee sends the report to the spectator’s club in order for the club to conduct an investigation. Upon completion of the spectator’s club investigation (that should include talking to the accused spectator) the investigating club will report back to the AHAI R&E Committee for final approval of the minimum 3-game suspension or any additional imposed suspension.

This is a very simple rule. Any spectator asked to leave a rink by an official or by the rink personnel will automatically miss a minimum of 3 games.

There was also an increased report of internal club issues last season that did not happen at a game, but within the club structure.  These types of issues, including issues that parents or players have with clubs, need to be reported to the AHAI R&E committee. The AHAI R&E committee tracks trends, suspensions, and how the issues are handled to make sure the proper processes are followed such as hearings, etc.

The AHAI e-newsletter, SNAPSHOT, has been, and will continue to be a great source of information on current topics. Please take the time to open the newsletter and read the article that might impact your family.  If you have questions about the Tier II two choice rule, there are many articles that describe the rule, how it’s applied and why it’s in place. You can check out ahaienews.com for past articles that have appeared in SNAPSHOT. Ahaienews.com also has many other relevant articles, tips and advice from trusted sources like USA Hockey. AHAI will continue to put out information on all of our programs and highlight the successes of our clubs, teams and players throughout the season. Our goal is to provide timely and accurate information to all of AHAI’s members. SNAPSHOT, along with AHAI’s social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube) and AHAI’s official website, http://www.ahai.org, are the main sources of communication with AHAI members. Please continue to send in your questions to “Ask AHAI” and your ideas and suggestions for articles you’d like to see in upcoming issues of SNAPSHOT.

The A Step aHead initiative is a free baseline testing program open to all AHAI players aged 11 to 18. This program is free due to the support and sponsorship of the Chicago Blackhawks, NorthShore University HealthSystem, Athletico and AHAI. Information on the A Step aHead program can be found on the AHAI website or on ahaienews.com. Hockey Moms’ Night Out at the United Center is presented by the A Step aHead program and is an excellent opportunity for Moms of AHAI players to get information on player safety, concussion signs/symptoms, post-injury treatment of concussions AND tour the Chicago Blackhawks locker room. More information regarding the date and time of this year’s Hockey Mom’s Night Out will be in an upcoming issue of our newsletter, SNAPSHOT.

Again this season you will see officials calling aggressive penalty infractions. All officials have gone through educational seminars and have been instructed to call the aggressive, dangerous penalties. That being said, it is up to coaches to coach the dangerous penalties out of the players. Coaches that attend USA Hockey/AHAI Coaching Education Clinics are also instructed on the prevention of dangerous play. Last but not least, players need to take responsibility for their actions. Remember penalties are only called after they happen.

Just a reminder that all USA Hockey coaches and officials will be required to complete the SafeSport education program, if they haven’t already done so. This program is designed to create awareness of player safety both on and off the ice – including without limitation Physical Abuse, Sexual Abuse, Screening, Locker Room Supervision and Hazing Policies, in addition to Codes of Conduct applicable to administrators, coaches, officials, parents, players and spectators.

AHAI continues to have great support from the Chicago Blackhawks and the Blackhawk Alumni. The Chicago Blackhawks offer finical assistance and host many events that support the AHAI membership. With the help of Annie Camins, Chicago Blackhawks Youth Hockey Director and Spencer Montgomery, Chicago Blackhawks Youth Hockey Coordinator, AHAI and the Blackhawks team up to host Game-Day Skates, Youth Coach, Player and Volunteer of the Month, Hockey Moms’ Night Out and the Illinois State High School Championships. The Blackhawk Alumni present scholarships each season to deserving High School players who represent dedication to education, community service, and family as well as playing hockey.

The season moves fast. Soon, teams will be going to tournaments and moving quickly into the hard winter months. Please keep in mind that every practice, tournament, team meeting, off-ice training and game is all about the process and the experience. As the players get older, they will use those experiences to help them make good choices. Good positive coaching and training go a long way. Players’ attitudes when they start moving to the higher levels come into play. Junior or college level coaches evaluate attitude and desire along with talent. As a parent who drove one of my sons out of hockey, I say help your players with a positive attitude of your own and provide support, no matter what team they make.

Good luck with the season!

John Dunne, AHAI President



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