Hockey Canada makes important strides: New Maltreatment Rule for 2021-2022 Season

Hockey Canada is committed to contributing to the physical, psychological, social, and spiritual health of individuals of varying abilities, backgrounds, and interests. Hockey Canada firmly believes that only when sport environments are safe and inclusive can these values be realized. Maltreatment includes volitional acts that result in harm or the potential for physical or psychological harm. Maltreatment in all its forms is a serious issue that undermines the health, well-being performance and security of everyone associated with the game of hockey and is incompatible with the core values that lie at the heart of Canadian sport. Participants in Hockey Canada’s programming should have the reasonable expectation that it will be in an environment that is accessible, inclusive and is free from all forms of Maltreatment.

Hockey Canada Playing Rules 2020-2022. p. 142

With the highly anticipated return of hockey just around the corner, Hockey Canada has announced a new Maltreatment Playing rule for the 2021-22 season. This newly adopted section to the rulebook—Section 11- Maltreatment — amalgamates all forms of abuse and harassment rules that existed previously, along with new and improved rules and infractions under one specific section. The section provides further guidelines for penalties based on the severity of the inappropriate behaviour of any player, goaltender or team official.

In previous years, rules regarding harassment of officials, unsportsmanlike conduct and misconducts were looped under Section 9- ‘Other Fouls’ (Referee’s Casebook/ Rule Combination, 2018). Simply grouping these rules alongside ‘other fouls,’ such as diving or using a kick shot, detracts from the importance of rules that address discriminatory behaviours. Therefore, the creation of a specific section that clearly defines the enforcement criteria of maltreatment, affirms the importance of these rules that specifically address discriminatory and inappropriate behaviours that have existed in hockey in Canada for far too long. 

Section 11- Maltreatment brings new criteria for certain infractions, such as an indefinite suspension pending a hearing and mandatory hearings for repeat offenders. Now, not all of these are ‘new rules’ per se, as four of the five subsections existed previously within Hockey Canada’s rules (Unsportsmanlike Conduct; Disrespectful, Abusive, and Harassing Behaviours; Spitting; Physical Harassment of Officials). However, there have been updates made and more detailed guidelines provided. In addition to an entirely new subsection—Rule 11.4 Discrimination.

Rule 11.4 Discrimination states: 

Any player, goaltender or team official who engages in verbal taunts, insults or intimidation based on discriminatory grounds shall be assessed a Gross Misconduct penalty. Discriminatory grounds include the following, without limitation:

  • Race, national or ethnic origin, skin colour or language spoken;
  • Language spoken;
  • Religion, faith or beliefs;
  • Age;
  • Sex, sexual orientation or gender identity / expression;
  • Marital or familial status;
  • Genetic characteristics;
  • Disability.

The Referee shall report the individual(s) by completing a Game Incident Report including full details and submitting the Report to the appropriate Member or League delegate. Note 1: If an incident occurs that was not witnessed by the Officials and is reported to the Referee, the Referee shall report the individual(s) to an appropriate member of each team’s bench staff and shall complete a Game Incident Report including full details and shall submit the Report to the appropriate Member or League delegate

Important: If any behaviour described in Rule 11.1, 11.2 or 11.3 includes behaviour described in Rule 11.4, the player, goaltender or team official must be penalized under Rule 11.4, in addition to any other penalties that individual might receive.

Additionally, to further eradicate any and all forms of discrimination from the game, Hockey Canada has also announced a new national reporting system for “incidents of discriminatory taunts, insults or intimidation, both on the ice and outside of game play. The new rule and reporting system includes, but is not limited to, discrimination based on race, ethnic origin, skin colour, religion, age, sexual orientation, gender identity and disability.” However, it is important to note that there are no specific details about the rollout of the national reporting system yet. 

There needs to be adequate training for all officials to feel confident making these calls, along with support for when they do blow the whistle. The national reporting system must be more than just that; there needs to be follow-up for each incident and proper penalization and consequences to hold offenders accountable for their actions. Writing policy is one thing; implementation is another. As we know, change takes time. We also know that change within hockey takes even more time. With Hockey Canada explicitly emphasizing maltreatment within the rulebook and the national reporting system for discrimination, I remain hopeful that Hockey Canada is beginning to make the appropriate strides towards creating a culture that better protects all members within the game.

Works Cited

Hockey Canada Playing Rules 2020-2022. (2021). Hockey Canada.

Referee’s Casebook/ Rule Combination 2018-2020. (2018). Hockey Canada.

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