Violence In Hockey Symposium Final Report

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					   Summary of Proceedings
Violence in Hockey Symposium
  London Convention Centre
      February 24, 2009

           April 23, 2009

        For information, please contact:

        Graham L. Pollett, MD, MHSc, FRCPC
        Medical Officer of Health
        Middlesex-London Health Unit
        50 King St.
        London, Ontario
        N6A 5L7
        phone: 519-663-5317, ext. 2444
        fax: 519-663-9413

                   Violence in Hockey Symposium, February 24, 2009

      “Sport, and particularly hockey, need not be a symptom of a sick
      society. Hockey can be a positive educational force - a model – to
      instill values such as co-operation, personal discipline, tolerance
      and understanding – a catalyst to promote fellowship and mutual
      respect among individuals and peoples – a celebration of speed,
      courage and finesse. Rather than a divisive force, fueled be
      calculated animosities, it can and should be a bond between
      participants, with a shared commitment to excellence, and the
      common love of a game, hockey, which perhaps more than any
      other can give one a sense of physical exhilaration and sheer joy of

      William McMurtry, Q.C.
      Government of Ontario Report: Investigation and Inquiry into
      Violence in Amateur Hockey, 1974

No sport has more resonance for Canadians than hockey. Over four million
Canadians of all ages play the game. Millions more watch it. Hockey is by far
considered Canada’s pre-eminent sport and pastime. It is a competitive sport that
involves close physical contact. What is surprising, and in many ways separates
hockey from other forms of competitive athletics, is the level of acceptance of
violence. This is highlighted by the prominence of fighting, a practice essentially
banned in most other forms of organized sport.

Violence in Hockey Symposium
A Violence in Hockey Symposium was held in London, Ontario, February 24,
2009, hosted by the Middlesex-London Health Unit. The purpose of this
Symposium was to continue the work of the Middlesex London Health Unit in
raising awareness of issues surrounding violence in hockey, whether in house
leagues, amateur or professional teams.

Presenters at the Symposium were:

   George Black, President Sports Officials Canada and Senior Advisor
   Operations with the CFL
   Ken Bocking, M.D., FRCSC, FACS, Surgeon, team doctor, parent, advocate
   Ken Campbell, Author, sports writer, The Hockey News
   Scott Campbell, Police Officer, City of Stratford, hockey coach (Major Midget
   Marshall Copp, Technical Director, Alliance Hockey Sports Officials Canada

                   Violence in Hockey Symposium, February 24, 2009

   Bruce Dowbiggin, Broadcaster, author, sports writer The Calgary Herald
   Donald Gorassini, PhD, Professor of Psychology at King’s University College,
   University of Western Ontario
   Peter Jaffe, PhD, UWO Faculty of Education, Academic Director, Centre for
   Research and Education on Violence Against Women and Children
   Bryan Lewis, Consultant to the East Coast Hockey League, former referee
   and Director of Officiating for the NHL
   Rick Morphew, Ontario Hockey Federation Referee-in-Chief
   Bernie Pascall, Former sports broadcaster, author of the Pascall Report on
   Eliminating Violence in Hockey
   Laura Purcell, MSc, M.D., FRCPC, FAAP, Diploma of Sports Medicine,
   Presentation on Concussions
   Scott Russell, sports writer, broadcaster, author, CBC
   Dave Simpson, former Captain London Knights, CHL Player of the Year
   Kevin Wamsley, PhD, Professor and Associate Dean, Faculty of Health
   Sciences, University of Western Ontario, former Director of the International
   Centre for Olympic Studies
   John Young, parent, hockey coach, London Devilettes (Pee Wee)

Participants who attended the Symposium included current and former coaches,
trainers, players and officials, parents and grandparents of hockey players,
members of the media and fans of the game.

When people describe the game of hockey, they often refer to the phrase
‘culture of the game’. A definition of culture includes the customs and values that
are characteristic of a particular community.

During this symposium we heard that hockey is a Canadian cultural icon. Scott
Russell described the game as the most captivating and endearing of all sports.
He also spoke of the obsession and love Canadians have for this game. All of the
presenters echoed this sentiment.

The focus of this Symposium was to shine a light on one aspect of the game that
distracts from all that is good about hockey. For those who speak of the culture of
hockey, many refer to a ‘subculture of violence’ in the sport.

The presenters and participants in this Symposium represented the stakeholders
who embody hockey culture. These people addressed their genuine concerns
about the subculture of violence that continues to exist in the game they love.

                   Violence in Hockey Symposium, February 24, 2009

This Report presents a summary of the Symposium’s proceedings. The format
reflects ‘What was Said’ as observations and comments related to each of the
stakeholder groups. The ‘What was Recommended’ Section highlights
presenters and participants identified actions that each stakeholder group can
take to help eliminate the subculture of violence in hockey.

What Was Said and What Was Recommended

A. Players
   What was said

      Children learn what they live
      Kids are not born to be violent, they’re shown to be violent
      Players start out to be players, not fighters
      Kids who don’t have the needed skill may resort to violence to make their
      Kids will tend to do whatever it takes to get to the NHL
      Young players believe violence is acceptable because the pros do it
      Kids/players know what’s expected of them, without it being explicitly said
      What players want is to play – take this from them and their behaviour will
      Former players have opportunities to influence values and perceptions
      because of the many roles they play in society, even after they stop
      playing the game.

   What was recommended

   1. Players, not just coaches and referees, need to be educated about the
   2. Prevent the players from taking situations in their own hands to exact what
      they perceive as justice
   3. Require NHL players to do a better job as role models for younger players

                    Violence in Hockey Symposium, February 24, 2009

B. Coaches & Trainers
  What was said

       Coaches and how they coach make the difference in how players play the
       Coaches instil culture in kids at young ages. If playing hockey is a positive
       experience, they will continue to enjoy the game
       Some coaches say fighting ‘makes you a man’ and players can be
       influenced by that
       Fighting is seen by some people as the honourable thing to do
       Playing rugged does not mean playing dirty
       Some coaches send out a ‘fighter’ when the team is losing
       Many young coaches are intimidated by parents
       Hockey Canada has Centres of Excellence to assist in training coaches
       Coaching girls’ hockey can be more rewarding than coaching boys
       because the contact & physicality are less frequent
       Trainers are an important part of the team and their opinions should be
       considered by officials

  What was recommended

  1.   Coaches can be a key to changing attitudes about violence
  2.   Coaches can encourage and reward positive behaviour
  3.   Coaches can support & encourage respect for the rules
  4.   Coaches should not reward a hockey player who fights (with more ice
       time, etc.)
  5.   Penalize coaches who send a ‘fighter’ out
  6.   Take advantage of Centres of Excellence and other resources for minor
       hockey coaches
  7.   Coaches can obtain a rule book, if they want to be better informed
  8.   Coaches can teach players how to avoid body checks & hits

                  Violence in Hockey Symposium, February 24, 2009

C. Parents/Families
  What was said

     Parents have the greatest impact on the way their children act
     Parents don’t say “I wish my kid was involved in more fights”
     Parents can be a major force in influencing the game for kids at younger
     Some parents do encourage violence
     Parents can make younger officials nervous as they are learning their role;
     they need to remember that young officials need time to gain skill
     Some parents are very concerned about how their children are treated by
     coaches (e.g. intimidation, verbal abuse)

  What was recommended

  1. Parents can & should follow-up on problems about how their children are
     treated by coaches – use the system that is in place (e.g. consult League
     Prevention Services Officers)
  2. Parents can communicate with their children about what they value –
     discuss, have a dialogue with their children about violence. Also parents
     should listen, to learn their children’s opinions and attitudes about the
  3. Parents can get involved in contracts that are signed between parents and
     teams, as is done in Western Canada

D. Fans/public/society

  What was said

     The silent majority is supportive of eliminating violence
     There is a silent majority & a loud minority in terms of violence & fighting
     Some people associate honour with fighting
     Fighting is not a courageous act
     We have a culture of denial when it comes to dealing with fighting in
     It’s a problem for us when parents & society ‘look the other way’ in terms
     of violence
     As a society we often see violence as entertainment

                   Violence in Hockey Symposium, February 24, 2009

  What was recommended

  1. We need to get more people involved in addressing the issue of violence
  2. Society has to say ‘this is not acceptable’
  3. We have the choice to take violence out of the game – make that choice
  4. We need to listen to each other’s opinions, to begin the discussion about
  5. We need to find ways to engage the silent majority in addressing this

E. Scientific/Medical Facts

  What was said

       Concussions are a major health issue. The majority (95%) of players who
       suffer concussions do not lose consciousness.
       Assessment, proper treatment and follow-up are important to prevent
       concussion complications
       Children are more susceptible to the consequences of concussions than
       (N.B. The issue of concussions was covered in great depth during the
       recent Concussion Summit – people should review their findings and
       The violence we see in hockey is a choice. It takes energy and
       commitment to play the game. Violence is not a natural outcome from this.
       We have to better understand the motivations that lead to ‘bad behaviour’
       (e.g. there is the view that violence in hockey is OK)
       Some of the consequences resulting from hockey violence include social
       acceptance, getting more ice time, receiving limited punishment. These
       are more of a reward than a punishment

  What was recommended

  1. Eliminate blows to the head
  2. Attend to all concussions, get more informed, take care with players who
     are injured in this way
  3. Change the rules and increase the punishment for those who are violent
  4. Consider involving the legal system, demoting violent players, socially
     rejecting them, increasing the team punishment for individual infractions
  5. If we emphasize winning as having a higher value than hostile actions,
     ‘winning will win out’

                  Violence in Hockey Symposium, February 24, 2009

F. The Legal System
  What was said

     The things we see in hockey arenas would result in people being arrested
     if these things happened on the street
     The process of the police & the legal system investigating a complaint
     takes time. There are fixed steps. This is very different from what happens
     in the hockey system
     For the legal system to get involved, there must be a reasonable
     expectation for conviction
     The Canadian legal system has been complicit in allowing violence in

  What was recommended

  1. People should ask for the assistance of the legal system if the hockey
     system does not give them satisfaction regarding violent acts

G. Officials and the Rules
  What was said

     It is very difficult to recruit, train & retain officials at the amateur level
     Young officials receive basic training and then they have to learn their role
     ‘on the job’
     Referees do make mistakes
     Young officials are intimidated by parents
     Hockey Canada is doing a national survey about the retention of officials
     There are now more training clinics for officials in amateur hockey than in
     the past
     One of the major issues has been the interpretation of the rules, and not a
     problem with the rules themselves
     The rules exist – there is a very detailed Rule Book now. (In 1967 the Rule
     Book had 3 paragraphs addressing fighting, the current Rule Book has 6
     pages on fighting)
     Officials do have different abilities to ascertain if a fight is premeditated
     Officials must remember ‘a penalty is a penalty is a penalty’. They are
     expected to call everything
     There is an atmosphere of violence and aggression toward officials by
     parents, players and coaches.

                     Violence in Hockey Symposium, February 24, 2009

     What was recommended

     1. Educate players and coaches about the rules
     2. Officials should have the game played safely and fairly, take the fear out
        of it
     3. The motto for officials – ‘you see it, you call it’ There is no room for
        interpretation in officiating
     4. The rules are there. Consistently apply the Rule Book and seek the
        backing of the teams to enforce the rules
     5. There should be an automatic ejection for fighting, not just a 5 minute
     6. Officials must enforce the ‘checking to the head’ rule
     7. Officials would benefit from the type of self-examination that is taking
        place at this Symposium

H.      Media

     What was said

        Media has brought hockey into our homes as never before
        The immediacy of the exposure is incredible
        More fights tend to make the highlight reels than good plays
        If players don’t fight, their masculinity is questioned in the media
        The media can be seen as enablers of violence
        The media uses violent language in describing hockey (the battle, etc.)
        With many traditional media outlets in difficulty, there will be fewer voices
        available to bring the stories to people
        Media reps develop relationships with the players, teams and coaches.
        This can affect their reporting

     What was recommended

     1. Ask the media to emphasize the positive aspects and skill of the game
     2. Media can do some self-examination, looking at the images they highlight
        and the language used to describe hockey, especially violent language

                  Violence in Hockey Symposium, February 24, 2009

I. The System, The Organization, The Owners
  What was said

     Officials enforce the rules, the administrators handle the punishment
     The NHL leadership has the culture of fighting ingrained – they’re afraid to
     examine it
     The NHL has not done a study on violence and the effect there would be if
     it were ended
     The OHA is preparing a policy regarding fighting. If they eliminate it, this
     would have a major impact, in terms of changing behaviours

  What was recommended

  1. Hockey administration can consistently assume responsibility for dealing
     with players who are fighters
  2. Hockey administration should establish systems to deal with “problem
     players” (e.g. track them, give them more severe penalties, escalate the
     punishment with repetitive behaviour)
  3. The NHL should be held accountable for players’ violent behaviour
  4. The NHL needs to demonstrate they are willing to change
  5. Administration needs to ‘police’ the game, creating punishments that are
     equal to the offences
  6. The NHL needs to deny players the right to play, i.e. remove them for
     extended periods of time. Taking this privilege from them would bring
     about a behavioural change in players
  7. Hockey administration should remember that parents would show more
     faith in the system when it gives immediate suspensions for violent acts
  8. Don’t ‘organize’ the game for very young children – this reduces the fun

                 Violence in Hockey Symposium, February 24, 2009

J. “The Game”
 What was said

    Understanding hockey is complex. It’s an aggressive game as well as a
    skill-based game
    Hockey has persevered through many setbacks throughout its history
    It’s a game that allows for physical contact
    We don’t really talk about ‘victims’ of hockey violence, which indicates that
    we accept the culture of violence without acknowledging the
    Viewing violence as an emotional release valve is inappropriate. We don’t
    consider that acceptable in other situations or sports
    The NHL has shown it can make changes (e.g. bench clearing brawls
    have ended, wearing helmets as compulsory)
    The violence in this sport has conspired to bring down a beautiful game
    People view the North American style of hockey as ‘rough & tumble’, yet
    when we play international hockey (e.g. the World Juniors), that is not the
    style we play
    Eliminating fighting may be seen as a problem, in terms of losing the fan
    base, however, other sports have loyal fans without fighting
    The biggest selling videos in Canada include the “Rock’em Sock’em”
    If fighting is a part of the game, why does the clock stop when a fight
    breaks out?
    Road hockey, a very big tradition in Canada, is a game of imagination,
    with no fights
    Hockey violence contributes to a broader culture of violence in society
    We won’t take the intensity out of the game by reducing the violence

 What was recommended

 1. Reduce the violence and intimidation, emphasize the skill, safety and fun
 2. Emphasize respect for the rules, other players and the game itself

                    Violence in Hockey Symposium, February 24, 2009

General Observations
Stories help us define and describe our culture. Many Symposium presenters
and participants shared their stories. Dr. Ken Bocking told a powerful, personal
story about his son’s experience playing hockey and sustaining concussions.
These ended his career at the amateur level and led Dr. Bocking to advocate for
the elimination of checking to the head with the CHL and NHL.

Stories can also help us bring about cultural change. We hope people who care
about this game will have the courage and commitment to share their stories and
listen to each others’ stories, as we work toward a resolution of this difficult issue.

As voices call for change, there are predictable reactions. People are shouted
down, verbally attacked and they often feel unsupported. At the Symposium we
heard that there have been incremental changes related to violence in the way
the game has been played. Polls indicate that people, even those who support
fighting, would continue to watch the game if fighting were removed. Presenters
and participants stated that they believe there is momentum for eliminating
violence from the game. More than one presenter asked “How do we get there?”
We view the discussion that took place February 24, 2009 as one more step in
keeping that momentum moving toward a safer game for hockey players at all
levels. We also encourage those who want the changes, to continue in their
efforts to bring this about.

Presenters and participants questioned where a change should begin – at the
grass roots level or the professional level. There were opinions supporting the
action being taken at one level versus another. There were also people who
believed that the changes begun at all levels simultaneously would be the best
approach and bring about the most positive effect. Professional hockey has
made and is considering actions to address violence, and amateur hockey
associations are doing the same. Coaches, trainers and officials at all levels are
addressing this issue. Players, their families and fans are confronting this issue
on a daily basis.

We may tell ourselves that it is someone else’s child who acts in a violent
manner. What we have to recognize is that these are all of our children. We
share a collective responsibility for their safety and behaviour as they play the

One group whose voice was heard only through the questions of participants is
women. Mothers, grandmothers, sisters, partners and friends of both male and
female hockey players have a direct interest in their well-being. It is important
that women become active and visible as we address the issue of violence in
hockey. If women speak out in favour of greater safety for hockey players, their
collective voices would have a major impact on the way the game is played.

                   Violence in Hockey Symposium, February 24, 2009


The comments of those who attended the Violence in Hockey Symposium on
February 24, 2009 reflect the growing body of opinion that violence and fighting
in hockey must be eliminated. There is no place for this behaviour in Canada’s
favourite game.

Based on the proceedings of the Symposium, the following actions are required:

1.    The safety of players must be a priority at all levels of the game
2.    All stakeholders must acknowledge the health consequences caused by
      violence and fighting in hockey
3.    There must be rule changes to prohibit violence at all levels of the game,
      including player, coach and team penalties
4.    There must be education of players, coaches and officials about these
5.    There must be consistent enforcement of the rules by officials and hockey
6.    Parents must become actively involved in lobbying for changes in the
      rules to address violence
7.    Women, especially mothers must be encouraged and assisted to realize
      the power of their voices in bringing about changes to eliminate violence
      and fighting in hockey
8.    Violent behaviour should be treated by the justice system in the same
      way, whether ‘on or off the ice’
9.    Media must stop glorifying violence in hockey