TORONTO -- Canadian Hockey struck a committee to develop and implement a national program on sexual and physical abuse and formally adopted a policy on sexual harassment on the weekend at the sport-governing body's semi-annual meeting.
Sheldon Lanchbery, of Deloraine, MB., Canadian Hockey vice-chairman-at-large, will chair the physical and sexual abuse committee, which will focus primarily on education programs and sex-offender awareness information. The committee will be working with experts in the field to help construct the program and will report back to Canadian Hockey's Annual General Meeting in Victoria with its recommendations and implementation plan for the 1997-98 season. That plan may involve some form of screening of volunteers and Canadian Hockey staff members.
The sexual harassment policy that was formally adopted, includes a complaint procedure which could lead to disciplinary sanctions up to and including dismissal from employment and/or expulsion from membership in Canadian Hockey. Individuals who knowingly make false accusations could also face discipline under the policy. The policy addresses harassment at the national level only. Provincial branches and local associations are being encouraged to adopt similar policies also.
The semi-annual meeting also dealt with a full menu of rule-change proposals ranging from widening the dimensions of the ice surface to lengthening hockey sticks to widening goaltender leg pads. In all, 16 rule changes were adopted.
One proposal that was defeated was one to eliminate the so-called tag-up offside rule, which enables players already inside the offensive zone before the puck crosses the blue line to peel back and touch the blue line to become onside. The rule has been blamed for what some see as the diminished skill level among defencemen who need not worry about puck handling in the neutral zone -- they can simply dump the puck and wait as their forwards 'tag-up' and play continues. Canadian Hockey opted to keep the tag-up rule because it provides greater continuity in games.
The association voted to permit hockey sticks as long as 60 inches, an increase of five inches, and leg pads for goalies as wide as 12 inches, instead of the current 10 inches.
A motion was passed recommending that the the ice surface in new arenas be widened to 100 feet from 85 feet. The association also voted to prohibit logos or advertising on the ice in the end zones so that the red goal lines and face-off circles are clearly marked.
In accordance with the zero tolerance policy for violence, a bench minor penalty will be assessed against a team on which any player or team official on the bench protests an official's ruling through verbal or physical gestures that may be considered disrespectful in any way. The rule also calls for a minor penalty should a player or team official bang the boards or the ice with a stick or any other object to protest an official's ruling.
Also on abuse of officials, a player or goaltender who challenges or disputes the rulings of any official shall be assessed a minor penalty and is subject to a 10-minute misconduct and, potentially, a game misconduct if he or she persists. If a team official disputes a ruling, the team shall be assessed a bench minor. If the team official persists, he or she will be assessed a game misconduct. The idea is to avoid having a player serve a misconduct penalty incurred by a team official.
Another new rule was adopted obliging all players except the goaltender to immediately retire to the front of their respective team bench or a neutral zone designated by the referee when a fight occurs. Failure to comply with this after the referee has so instructed players will result in a misconduct being assessed.
Canadian Hockey also named former chairman and longtime association member Frank Libera a lifetime member, the highest honor which the organization may bestow upon an individual. Libera, of Richmond, ON, served as chairman of the former Canadian Amateur Hockey Association from 1991-1993 and has been involved as a hockey volunteer from 1971-72 to the present both nationally and in the Ottawa area. He is actively involved with the organizing committee of the 1997 Women's World Hockey Championship in Kitchener, ON, from March 31 - April 6.
The 1998 Air Canada Cup -- the National Midget Championship -- was awarded to the city of Sudbury, ON at the meeting, while it was recommended that the 1999 event be held in Saskatchewan. The specific site for that event will be determined at a later date.