By Rachel Cohen
Wednesday the NHL, NHLPA, and 17 other hockey organizations from around the world released a “Declaration of Principles” for the hockey community. The statement advocates a positive culture to create the best game experience possible. The whole declaration was a group initiative created over a span of two years.
The NHL revealed the Declaration Wednesday morning via NBC’s TODAY Show, where players Marc-Andre Fleury, Seth Jones, Connor McDavid, and Ryan McDonagh, as well as Hockey Hall-of-Famer Pat LaFontaine appeared on set. The segment also featured a shootout between Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie shooting on MAF.
Read the full release from the NHL, including the Declaration Principles.
The National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA) and the National Hockey League (NHL) today unveiled hockey’s Declaration of Principles – developed by and for hockey stakeholders – to advance policies, programs and initiatives, while inspiring fans, players and communities to create the best possible experience for the entire hockey community. This joint statement advocates the game of hockey as a powerful platform for participants to build character, foster positive values and develop important life skills that transcend the game.
Including the NHL and the NHLPA, 17 hockey organizations from around the world have joined together: American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA); American Hockey League (AHL); Canadian Hockey League (CHL); Canadian Junior Hockey League (CJHL); Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL); College Hockey Inc.; ECHL; Hockey Canada; International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF); National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA); National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL); North American Hockey League (NAHL); U SPORTS; United States Hockey League (USHL); and USA Hockey.
Over the last two years, hockey’s leading governing bodies have gathered to discuss the state of the game and collaborate on cultural and structural changes to positively impact the sport. An important recommendation from the group was the formation of a Declaration of Principles – a set of commonly shared beliefs that articulate a vision of delivering the best possible hockey experience for participants and their families. The Principles are meant to serve as an internal compass to help guide decisions and shift behaviors of hockey organizations, as well as players, parents, coaches, fans, partners and all those who represent and care for the sport of hockey. Those who love hockey know that it requires teamwork and perseverance, instills integrity and a sense of humility, strengthens character and brings communities together.
Earlier today, the Declaration of Principles was launched on the TODAY Show on NBC when NHL players Marc-Andre Fleury, Seth Jones, Connor McDavid and Ryan McDonagh appeared on set, along with Hockey Hall of Famer Pat LaFontaine. A media conference followed in New York with Jones, Erik Karlsson and Kevin Shattenkirk in attendance, along with representatives from the 17 hockey organizations assembled.
“The Declaration of Principles represents the hockey world speaking with one voice: our game teaches life lessons that can guide a meaningful future,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said. “While not everyone who plays the game will have an NHL career, every player at every level — and the family and friends of every player — can enjoy rewarding experiences and share a common commitment to respect, inclusiveness and sportsmanship.”
“We believe it is important for the NHLPA to take a leadership role together with the NHL in the development of youth and grassroots hockey,” said Mathieu Schneider, NHLPA Special Assistant to the Executive Director. “Hockey is a fun game, which imparts important values, facilitates camaraderie among participants, and instills important life lessons that all Players can carry with them in their daily lives.”
As part of the group’s reaffirmation to the game, the hockey organizations have collectively issued a set of eight key principles – the Declaration of Principles – aimed at rededicating the game at every level to the group’s core values and beliefs.
Declaration of Principles
We believe every leader of the sport has the responsibility to inspire stakeholders in an effort to deliver a positive family hockey experience. Hockey participation offers families value beyond making an individual a better player or even a better athlete. The game of hockey is a powerful platform for participants to build character, foster positive values and develop important life skills. These benefits are available to all players, desirable to every family and transcend the game.
Today, guided by our common values, we jointly pledge to the following Principles.
1. Hockey should be an enjoyable family experience; all stakeholders – organizations, players, parents, siblings, coaches, referees, volunteers and rink operators – play a role in this effort.
2. Hockey’s greatest value is the role it plays in the development of character and life skills.
3. All hockey organizations – regardless of size or level of competition – bring value to players and families in their ability to deliver a positive family experience.
4. Physical activity is important for a healthy body, mind and spirit.
5. There are significant benefits of youth participation in multiple sports.
6. Hockey programs should be age-appropriate for all players, accounting for each individual’s physical, emotional and cognitive development.
7. There is great value in all forms of hockey, both on and off the ice.
8. All hockey programs should provide a safe, positive and inclusive environment for players and families regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation and socio-economic status. Simply put, hockey is for everyone.
We believe in our ability to improve lives and strengthen communities globally through hockey. We believe that living by these Principles will provide a healthy, balanced and enjoyable experience for all and inspire impactful service beyond the rink.
According to Chris Johnston of Sportsnet, the declaration has even been praised by Pope Francis.
Pope Francis recently sent the NHL a letter which praised hockey leaders for adopting a "Declaration of Principles."
— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) September 6, 2017
Here’s the Pope’s full letter to the NHL.
To go along with the announcement, the league launched the website thisishockey.org, as well as a new TV spot Thank You Hockey, which will be airing on NBCSN in the US and Sportsnet in Canada throughout the 2017-18 season.
While this Declaration of Principles is a good building block, it will take more than words to improve the culture surrounding the sport of hockey. For many years, the hockey community has struggled to reach out to fans who fall outside the straight white male demographic. Many fans continue to wonder if hockey is truly for them as well.
The NHL and NHLPA along with the organizations that supported this Declaration must now act upon these words. For instance, the NHL must take the lead on doling out suspensions when a player uses a slur on the ice, regardless of how big a superstar they are or if it’s the postseason. The NHL must also change how they view female fans, from selling pink bedazzled women’s merchandise to rethinking “ice girls” in general. Gary Bettman has denied the idea that the hockey world doesn’t treat women equally in the past, but then the league will engage in behavior such as heavily promoting Patrick Kane after his rape allegations.
The entire fan community also must act to ensure that their fellow fans, regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, gender identity, age, disability, sexual orientation, or socio-economic status are welcome at their local rink. If you hear a fan next to you throwing slurs at a player or opposing fan, report it. The culture can only change if everyone works to do so.
It’s one thing to say “Hockey is for Everyone.” It’s another for it to actually be so.
Thank you, Hockey, for being more than a game. https://t.co/RDMgRUSf5L #ThisIsHockey pic.twitter.com/AMumv4d5Pq
— NHL (@NHL) September 6, 2017
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