By USA Hockey & AHAI – 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 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.”
The following “points of emphasis” are not designed to replace the current rules/definitions, but instead are intended to 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.
- Body “Competitive” Contact: Competitive contact is body contact between two or more skaters who are in the immediate vicinity of the puck and who are in the normal process of playing the puck. These skaters are reasonably allowed to lean into each other provided possession of the puck remains the sole object of the contact. Body “Competitive” Contact is encouraged at all age classifications.
- Angling: is a legal defensive skill used to direct/control the puck carrier to an area that closes the gap and creates an opening that is too small for the puck carrier.
- Physical Engagement: is when two players who are in pursuit of the puck are allowed to reasonably lean into each other.
- Collisions: occur when players are allowed to maintain their established position on the ice.
- A body check represents intentional physical contact, from the front, diagonally from the front or straight from the side, 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.
- Legitimate body checking must be done only with the trunk of the body (hips and shoulders) and must be above the opponent’s knees and at or below the opponent’s shoulders.
- At no time can a player use the hands, forearm, stick, or elbow while delivering a check. The primary focus must be to gain possession of the puck and NOT to punish or intimidate the opponent.
- 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 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.