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This Is Hockey

Declaration of Principles made impact in first year

Pledge by NHL, stakeholders to develop, promote, support positive change in sport's culture going strong

by Jon Lane @JonLaneNHL / Staff Writer

Pat LaFontaine looked no further than the Toronto Maple Leafs naming four-time Olympic gold medalist Hayley Wickenheiser an assistant director of player development as an example of the hockey community living the Declaration of Principles one year after its unveiling.

The DOP, unveiled in New York City on Sept. 6, 2017, was developed by and for 17 hockey stakeholders to advance policies, programs and initiatives to create the best possible experience for the entire hockey community. It embodies, in part, that 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 socioeconomic status.


[Related: This Is Hockey I NHL, NHLPA Unveil Declaration of Principles]


In other words, hockey is for everyone. Wickenheiser was hired because she can do the job and not because she's a woman. The Maple Leafs are a primary example of an organization making decisions aligned with the Principles.

"One of the things that stood out for me right off the bat is the hiring of Hayley Wickenheiser," said LaFontaine, a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame and vice president, hockey development and community affairs for the NHL. "That is, right there, talking about one of the Principles. The Leafs are living it. It's a perfect example of the shift that can occur. It's available for every level of organization, every size, and anyone who wants to implement the Declaration of Principles."

The DOP inspires those around the game to improve lives and strengthen communities globally through hockey. Last weekend in Dix Hills, New York, Adam Graves and other NHL alumni took part in a 24-hour Hockey Helps marathon that raised money for Hockey Fights Cancer and local charities while shining a light on the DOP. 

"Adam is the epitome of living the DOP," LaFontaine said. "He embodies those principles and is bringing them to life by backing up and having demonstrated his commitment to service outside the rink."

LaFontaine shared his perspective on the state of the DOP and how others can get involved in an interview with


What has the DOP accomplished in its first year of existence? 

"I think we're scratching the surface. As more and more organizations and all hockey stakeholders bring to life the values and the principles that we've all set to live by, the excitement of creating the best possible family hockey experience will be apparent. Hockey could be a leading force for other sports.

"It's one thing to bring everybody together, agree upon as a global hockey community and to put down in writing and to agree to sign up for that. It's another thing to make sure now we adapt and create those changes and produce those examples and to live by what we said we were going to do. That's part of the process and it's still evolving."


What does it mean to live by the principles? 

"When you start to look at those eight principles, and you ask yourself as an organization, as a league and as a hockey community at all levels … are you truly living and bringing to life these principles, which we've agreed to do? That will be the answer. For each stakeholder it may be different, and that's OK. There isn't one way to live the principles - it will be unique and authentic to each stakeholder. Now we have to start to execute. That's the real secret to bringing the platform to life."

Video: Explaining Hockey's Declaration of Principles


How does the NHL continue to get people involved and recruit new ones to the cause?

"I think the first thing you do as an organization, a family and a stakeholder is you ask yourself, are you creating the best family hockey experience as an organization at all levels? That is your guiding document on decisions, on policy, on everything you do. It's written there and signed upon by the global hockey community that this is what we believe to be the principles and values we all need to live by and aspire to be. It's really within your own organization and stakeholder group how you choose to want to bring them to life. Ask yourself how you're bringing them to life.

"I think it's the beauty of what we've done as a global hockey community. We've put a flag in the ground to say this is who we aspire to be. It's a shared platform that's available to every organization, every stakeholder, to bring to life under their own umbrella. That's the beauty of the platform. Nobody is telling you, you have to be like this, telling you have to do this. The NHL, we're that North Star in the hockey spine. We have to continue to be inclusive and to make sure that we're creating the best family hockey experience. The greatest value of our game is the core values and principles that teaches you to live on long after the game is over."


Can you share an example or two of a new initiative or program by the NHL that launched in the last year to bring the Principles to life?

Sure. Knowing the platform and opportunity we had at our last NHL All-Star Game in Tampa, we launched the Principles in Practice -- a pilot program focused on building a positive hockey culture in the Lightning High School Hockey League through an education-based leadership development and cultural competency curriculum. Also, in honor of our very own Willie O'Ree -- the first black Player in the NHL -- we created the Willie O'Ree Community Hero Award. This recognized an individual who, through the game of hockey, has positively impacted his or her community, culture or society. This winner of the inaugural award was Darcy Haugan, the late coach of the Humboldt Broncos. We are really proud of what we have done in Year One, but the best is yet to come.


Since this is a shared platform, and the power is in the collective action of the 17 stakeholders, we asked some of the other signatories to share some of their proudest efforts since the Declaration of Principles was announced one year ago today:

American Collegiate Hockey Association
The ACHA, the governing body for non-varsity college hockey in the United States, is proud to continue its support of the Declaration of Principles. Using the Declaration of Principles as guidance, the ACHA has also placed an emphasis on social media use in a responsible manner by its student-athletes. Whether its Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook or some other medium, the ACHA has initiated an effort to ensure that ACHA players understand that what gets posted online can be seen not just by their friends and families, but potential employers, professors, fans, children and others, which reflects not only on them personally but also on the universities they represent as well as the ACHA and can have real-life implications. The ACHA looks forward to continuing that effort to promote responsible use of social media, as part of its commitment to the Declaration of Principles, throughout the upcoming 2018-2019 season and promoting the message that the great game of hockey really is for everyone!


American Hockey League
The AHL was proud to successfully launch its Hockey Fights Cancer initiative at the 2018 AHL All-Star Classic in Utica, New York. Players, coaches, broadcasters and fans came together to remember and honor those fighting cancer. It was a terrific opportunity to focus on and expand the important work being done by the NHL's Hockey Fights Cancer program and to demonstrate how we can be stronger together. The 2018-19 season will expand those efforts with 19 AHL teams hosting HFC nights in November, supporting the efforts of all 31 NHL clubs. AHL teams and players annually do terrific work in their communities and look forward to strengthening those efforts on and off the ice.


Hockey Canada
Hockey Canada is launching a new community initiative addressing a contemporary problem for youth. The initiative is called "The Code" and it's focused on cyberbullying. In partnership with TELUS, the initiative will support good social sportsmanship and being a good teammate on and off the ice. It will launch in fall 2018 and include a digital code of conduct for players, parents, officials, volunteers and administrators to sign and pledge their commitment to positive behavior. Educational workshops will be offered for adults and children to educate and share strategies for addressing the challenges of navigating an increasingly digital world. 


Canadian Hockey League
Beginning in the spring of 2018, the CHL partnered with Health Canada to create a campaign to engage youth and encourage them to make positive and healthy lifestyle choices as well as to understand the facts about cannabis use with the pending legalization in Canada. As part of the partnership, the CHL and Health Canada are working together to create videos, social media content as well as in-arena fan-based activities. CHL players will share their personal experiences about making positive choices to reach their personal goals.  


Canadian Junior Hockey League
In an effort to promote the Principles amongst CJHL members and foster their growth within our communities, the CJHL has initiated an annual recognition award for those members, who best promote the ideals that make up the Declaration. We believe that by creating awareness, through a competitive platform, the Principles will be promoted, and practiced generating both growth and enthusiasm throughout, the CJHL.

Video: Hockey unites to launch Declaration of Principles


Canadian Women's Hockey League
We are our strongest when we work together, that is something the CWHL recognizes, values and celebrates. We are proud to support and promote the Declaration of Principles through the continued growth of our footprint within the communities of our teams and athletes. In September, the CWHL will be launching its Community Webpage that will act as a platform to celebrate our community partners, programs and heroes. This year, we look forward to implementing our mentorship program that will connect our athletes with their fans from all over the world. The No. 1 priority of this program is to ensure that our grassroot programs are constantly supported by the women who inspire their dreams. The league will also continue to develop its Future Stars program as it enters its second year of existence. Empowering our community will grow the game and we are excited to pave the path for generations to follow.


College Hockey Inc/NCAA:
Everyone involved in college hockey -- coaches, administrators and of course the student-athletes - continue to prioritize the academic performance of NCAA Division I hockey players that occurs alongside their tremendous development as hockey players. The commitment to excellence that NCAA hockey players show in the classroom is as impressive as it is on the rink. Likewise, the resources that colleges and universities provide to their hockey playing student-athletes provide for truly a complete and wholistic developmental experience. Once again in 2017-18 the collective graduation rate for all NCAA Division I hockey playing student-athletes was over 90% placing it near the top of all NCAA Division I sports. Although there are many personal examples to point to, perhaps Ryan Donato of the Boston Bruins captured the essence best when asked why he attended class at Harvard the morning after he made his NHL debut: "I am still fully dedicated to another lifelong dream of mine -- a degree from a university that has given me the best three years of my life." NCAA hockey teams are also firmly committed to introducing the sport to new audiences, embodying the principle that hockey is for everyone. Teams frequently engage with the community, both locally and beyond. For example, Boston University's men's team visited with the nonprofit organization Ice Hockey in Harlem prior to a game last November at Madison Square Garden. Michigan Tech helps introduce children in the local Big Brothers Big Sisters program to the sport by welcoming them to games in Shawhan's Husky Pack,a new initiative launched in November by first-year head coach Joe Shawhan. Those are just two examples of the many ways programs and their players and coaches bring hockey's valuable qualities to new audiences.


The ECHL looks forward to supporting the Declaration of Principles in 2018-19 season and beyond and encourages its teams to commit to supporting these beliefs. While the Declaration of Principles has the backing of all 27 ECHL teams, the Worcester (Massachusetts) Railers saw particular success during the 2017-18 season with their Skate to Success program. The learn-to-skate program held on Tuesdays allowed a total of 2,500 fourth graders in the Worcester Public School system to enjoy a day of skating and lunch. The program was run at no cost to the students or the city of Worcester, thanks to the Worcester Railers Foundation and generous corporate partners. This program certainly echoed many of the Principles, and the Railers look forward to growing its success in 2018-19.


International Ice Hockey Federation
The German Ice Hockey Federation launched its long-term project Integration in Hockey two years ago, in cooperation with the IIHF, and this upcoming season, inspired by the Declaration of Principles, is implementing a more comprehensive campaign about this topic. This will include videos, pictures and stories about diversity and inclusion in female, male and youth national teams and at the club level. The goal of the initiative called #HockeyIsVariety is to sensitize the ice hockey teams, players and fans in Germany about the topic to create more inclusion and help families with a migrant background to get on the ice.


North American Hockey League
The NAHL recently announced a new initiative that is taking bold and more drastic steps to ensure the safety of all players. The NAHL Department of Player Safety was developed to create a safer environment for players, while also educating all team personnel about a safer on-ice environment and the implementation of greater respect for the well-being of all players in the NAHL. This program was announced to implement and enforce standards that focus on protecting the players and creating an enhanced standard of awareness among the players, coaches and administrators that are an essential part of the league's core success. Heading up the Department of Player Safety on a full-time basis is Marc Faucette. Faucette was an on-ice official in the NHL for 17 seasons and officiated close to 1,000 NHL regular-season and Stanley Cup Playoff games. "We wanted to take the necessary steps to ensure that we are doing everything we can to provide a safe and competitive environment for our players and to further enhance and educate our players and coaches on the consequences of potential dangerous actions. In addition, we want to be on the forefront in the development and training of officials, so that the product on the ice is not compromised and as competitive as possible," said NAHL Commissioner and President Mark Frankenfeld.


NHL Players' Association
Over the last year, the NHLPA Goals & Dreams fund continued its ongoing efforts to provide hockey equipment to children who wouldn't otherwise have the opportunity to play the great game of hockey. The NHLPA will continue to grow the game with more equipment donations being made to programs around the world during the upcoming season. In addition, this past season the NHLPA launched a program with the Kids Help Phone organization in order to help make Canadian youth aware of the important resources available to them. The NHLPA is working to enhance our partnership with the Kids Help Phone this coming season. Together with the NHL, the NHLPA continues to focus on enhancing our Hockey is For Everyone work and together we continue to actively grow our joint Learn to Play and Future Goals programs as well as provide support through the Industry Growth Fund to grow alternative forms of the game in NHL markets. 


National Women's Hockey League
As the Principles state, Hockey is for Everyone. The NWHL is working to align the girls' hockey network. We've already had more than 50 girls' organizations join the Jr. NWHL. These programs have a great need for mentors. Grade school girls drop out of sports at twice the rate of boys. But with role models to inspire their athletic dreams and fuel their imaginations, we will see that data change. Whether they're from Washington or North Carolina (see Jr. NWHL map here), inclusion and a warm welcome to the hockey family will empower the next generation. Together, we'll have a more significant impact and inspire more girls to start playing and keep playing.


U SPORTS is launching a Future Stars program this fall that recognizes exceptional high school student-athletes for their accomplishments in the classroom and in athletics. Future Stars will give recognition to one male and one female student-athlete from each participating high school every month and celebrate their achievements on a dedicated microsite that will showcase them with their peers from across Canada. Also, for the third straight summer U SPORTS sent a women's hockey all-star team to Hockey Canada's Summer Showcase in Calgary, playing the National Women's Development Team, and Team Japan in a series of exhibition games. Since the Declaration of Principles were announced, U SPORTS increased its resources to promote and expand the visibility of the all-star team to our followers from coast to coast, better aligning the coverage with the values from the Declaration of Principles.


USA Hockey
As the national governing body for ice hockey in the United States, USA Hockey is a leader in many ways, including embracing disabled athletes with a desire to participate in the sport. While not commonplace for NGBs to include players with disabilities, USA Hockey has continued to enhance those opportunities. The organization began its Disabled Hockey Section in 2002 to provide focus on its efforts and what started with four disciplines of disabled hockey has emerged to six today, including fully adding a blind hockey discipline in 2018-19 in addition to deaf/hard of hearing, sled, standing amputee, special, and Warrior.


United States Hockey League
Ahead of the upcoming season, the USHL is planning to expand on and further educate its players and organizations regarding proper conduct on social media platforms. The USHL understands that social media can be a fun and rewarding way to share life and opinions with family, friends and teammates. However, use of social media also presents certain risks and carries with it certain responsibilities, and the USHL wants to make sure that players and organizations are educated on how to conduct themselves accordingly. The league will hold seminars with players and organizations to explain the risks social media carries as well as how to exhibit proper conduct across all digital platforms. The USHL recognizes that these players and organizations are role models in their respective communities and want to help promote a positive environment and set a positive example. The USHL hopes this social media training will help develop character and life skills and encourage players and organizations to use social media positively.

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