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NHL developing plans to ensure hockey welcoming for all

Protection for whistleblowers, diversity and inclusion efforts, training program among steps being taken

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / Columnist

ST. LOUIS -- The NHL is developing tools, resources and educational experiences to ensure hockey is welcoming for all, as Commissioner Gary Bettman announced it would at the Board of Governors meeting in Pebble Beach, California, on Dec. 9.

They include a platform for whistleblowers; a council that will oversee diversity and inclusion efforts at the League and club levels; and a training program for coaches, general managers and other executives.

"Our message has not changed, but it's worth repeating," Commissioner Bettman said at the 2020 Honda NHL All-Star Weekend at Enterprise Center on Friday. "Hockey should provide a safe environment for everyone, and we are going to make sure that that is the case."

Commissioner Bettman said Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, executive vice president Kim Davis and other senior leaders have led interviews and heard proposals from numerous top consultants who provide whistleblower capabilities.

"We are moving forward to build a platform with an independent, recognized global leader in ethics advisory and operations work," Commissioner Bettman said. "This platform will allow for reports to be made both confidentially and anonymously, or for attribution, by phone or digitally, and it will be accessible in multiple languages.

"To develop this in a way that is secure, trusted and most importantly effective, takes time, and we are considering the many nuances as they relate to data privacy and security, communication, division of responsibilities, and the other myriad of things that go into such a program."

The NHL expects the platform to be fully operational within a few months.

"Ultimately, our vision is for this platform to stand as the best-in-class ethics-reporting experience," Commissioner Bettman said.

The NHL has retained an independent firm to investigate issues that have been raised since the announcement at the Board of Governors meeting.

"There have been some things reported to us, which we're following up on," Daly said. "Nothing, like, groundbreaking."

Commissioner Bettman and Buffalo Sabres owner Kim Pegula will chair the council overseeing diversity and inclusion. The NHL also is forming parallel groups that will influence diversity and inclusion throughout the hockey ecosystem, including fans and youth hockey players. All will be fully operational by the summer.

The NHL is evaluating proposals for the training program that coaches, GMs and other executives will undergo. Commissioner Bettman said the program might be done so some of the training can be completed by the 2020 NHL Draft in Montreal on June 26-27, but in the worst-case scenario, it will be before training camp next season.

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