Yes! Wednesday was the day!
Yesterday was the day the Declaration of Principles was signed by 17 worldwide hockey organizations in front of cameras, press, a few NHL players (it was also NHL media day #1 for the upcoming season so they couldn’t be in two places at once), and hockey personnel here in Midtown Manhattan on a slightly rainy, slightly sunny early September morning.
This Declaration of Principles is the foundational element of a new initiative supported by these organizations; This is Hockey. This is Hockey embodies that “hockey organizations will pledge to celebrate and advance policies, programs, and initiatives of their respective organizations – and to inspire their fans, participants, and communities – to create the best possible family hockey experience.”
This initiative has been years in the making, taking countless time and effort from everyone involved. NHL VP of Hockey Development and Hall of Famer Pat LaFontaine started the morning off, via a wonderfully produced video (although he was present and spoke later on) and mentioned this has been 3 years in the making, working together with these worldwide hockey organizations, trying to figure out together “how can we support and help build the culture of our sport, and make it better.” He continued, “This is a document [the Declaration of Principles] to say how we can all work together to raise the level of the standard of the game and how it’s played, of the experience and how it’s played, and really grow the culture of our game in a real positive way. How do we create a better family experience? Hockey is a vehicle to give you those life skills, to give you those values that you can use the rest of your life.”
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman recognized yesterday September 6, 2017 as “an important day in the history of hockey.” He thanked LaFontaine, knowing wholeheartedly that the day would not be happening without all of his hard work over the last three years.
“Hockey is a universal language,” he stated. “Around the world, no matter where you play, or skate, or engage with our sport on or off the ice, everyone speaks hockey fluently. Even if, depending on the country, you’re using different words for stick, goal, or puck, around the world hockey touches the heart, inspires powerful emotions, provides important structure and discipline. Those are all great attributes of own game.” That was what this day was all about, in a couple sentences, all wrapped up neatly.
However, there are many different ways to say this.
New York Rangers newest star defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said the following in yesterday’s press conference of the values he has learned from the game. “Humility would have to be one of them. When you walk into a locker room, everyone keeps their egos in check. That the environment and the culture that we have, not only at our level, but all the way down to when you were a kid, I think that goes a long way. Hockey has brought me to a lot of great places in my life. When I look at my college years, not all of us made it to where I am today, but a lot of my friends coming out of a college locker room and going into an interview, those core values, humility being one of them, and the way that your character is built, it’s something people are attracted to.”
Two-time James Norris Trophy winning Ottawa Senators Defenseman Erik Karlsson mentioned, “I have a lot of friends that don’t play hockey anymore, they took a different route, and just from speaking to them, the lesson that they got from being in a team and being in a team sport like hockey, what it taught them in real life as well. I think it’s extremely important. The way we value the game and the traditions that we have, and how we’re still trying to develop and grow the game, and we’re still holding on to the principles that hockey people understand. It’s very important. I have been around a lot of people that play different sports, and the way we respect ourselves is very rare, very unique. It’s good we’re trying to get more people to understand, and get into that community.’
It all starts with the kids, in youth hockey. Seth Jones, Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman, who is practically a kid still himself at age 22 (although he’s been in the league and been a star since 2013) has some advice for today’s kids. He says, “Just do what you love. It’s awesome to be a part of hockey, it teaches you a lot. But I think diversity in sports is key. Figure out what you want to do. You should enjoy what you do every day, you should want to go practice, want to go play. I think that’s the key. Just having fun with it, not taking it too seriously when you’re a kid and learn.”
Hockey doesn’t discriminate. Gender, race, limitations – doesn’t matter. Hockey is there. A goose-bumps inducing video, Thank You Hockey, was premiered at this gathering, summing all of this up in 90 seconds. Absolutely watch this video.
There is just not enough time or space to be able to bring you words from all the attending organizations Just know there were representative from the NHL and the NHLPA, but also the ACHA, AHL, CHL, CJHL, CWHL, College Hockey Inc., ECHL, Hockey Canada, IIHF, NCAA, NWHL, NAHL, U SPORTS, USHL, and USA Hockey.
As someone who is immersed in the group of hockey supporters, this Declaration meant a lot to me. In sports, there are a handful of major sports leagues that get immensely more attention than ice hockey. Hopefully this signing of the Declaration of Principles gets families involved starting at a youth level to bring more buzz and love to an amazing culture that has so much to offer a supporter, lover, fan, and player of our game.
Watch it grow.