Declaration Of Principles Across Hockey Takes NHL Where Other Pro Leagues Ought To Go – Forbes
by Arthur L. Caplan & Lee H. Igel
People’s beliefs about war monuments, social movements, immigrants, and even the severity of hurricanes seem to be creating widespread division and disagreement everywhere you look these days. Athletes choosing to protest the national anthem shows that sports aren’t immune to discord, either. But leave it to sports to also offer a rare bit of good news about bringing people together, as hockey did yesterday.
At an announcement and ceremony in New York, stakeholders from the the NHL, NHL Players Association, and International Ice Hockey Federation, along with 14 major organizations across all levels of hockey signed on to a Declaration of Principles that will help guide decisions about the future of the sport. The principles are oriented toward creating the best-possible experiences for people throughout the hockey community, starting with young players and parents.
The Principles are an outgrowth of a process that began a few years ago, when NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly tasked Pat LaFontaine, the league’s vice-president of hockey development and a member of Hockey Hall of Fame, with leading the charge to get key stakeholders better aligned. LaFontaine took the task seriously. He began preaching to anyone who had ever even thought about hockey that while each stakeholder had its own business worldview and activities, all were interested in “growing the game” and the people in it. That common chord led to a series of meetings and discussions among leaders of hockey organizations in North America.
Getting 17 stakeholders—including American Collegiate Hockey Association, American Hockey League, Canadian Hockey League, Canadian Junior Hockey League, Canadian Women’s Hockey League, College Hockey Inc., ECHL, Hockey Canada, National Collegiate Athletic Association, National Women’s Hockey League, North American Hockey League, U SPORTS, United States Hockey League, and USA Hockey—in one room for closed door meetings over the next two years might have been enough of an accomplishment worth celebrating. But as anyone who is part of a group operating at that level knows, getting together in a room isn’t enough to count as an achievement. For that, there has to be a meaningful product from the time spent together.
We had an opportunity to see that take shape, firsthand, in few meetings along the way. We were asked to help the hockey establishment think hard about its moral obligations. What we observed was people representing the interests of different organizations working to develop a system of checks and balances that could help guide players, families, and coaches through age-appropriate pathways for development at the top, middle, and bottom of the player pool pyramid. The approach was a way of creating what LaFontaine called a “quantity of quality” player pools that would “grow the game.”
Is hockey really on to something here with its announcement of the Principles? Did the stakeholders really do anything in the way of contributing to a coordinated set of activities that benefit the sport? Or is all this something more in the way of things that make for a nice photo opportunity and let’s head to the bar?
The Principles have the stamp of approval from many of the sport’s biggest stakeholder organizations. They have drawn praise from the likes of Pope Francis, who took enough notice to send a letter commending the hockey leaders for their work on the initiative. But they need to have an impact on players, parents, coaches, and fans—especially those who are drawn to the sport at points other than the elite levels. Fortunately, they have the stuff for achieving that aim.