Declaration of Principles

Hockey’s role in building character, values, life skills


Posters from the #thisishockey campaign that followed the Declaration of Principles.

ZURICH – Since 2015, hockey leaders across professional and amateur organizations have been meeting to discuss the state of the game and their collective interest in developing, promoting and supporting positive changes in the sport.

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Together, we recognized the values the game can provide to its participants. Our goal is not just to create better hockey players, but better people.

To keep the momentum, the NHL and NHLPA assembled hockey leaders and held Hockey SENSE, two summits at the World Cup of Hockey: the first devoted to the state of the youth game and our collective interest in developing, promoting and supporting positive changes in the sport; and the second on hockey’s role in social equality and sustainable environments.

“The IIHF is very supportive of this initiative by the NHL and the NHLPA to set out a set of principles to guide development in ice hockey. The principles that are outlined here are applicable throughout the different levels of ice hockey development, and address not just players but parents, coaches, everyone with a stake in the sport,” said IIHF Council member Franz Reindl.

“Growing the game is a key challenge for the IIHF. We have such varied levels of ice hockey development in our membership, and we believe above all that close cooperation between leagues, clubs, and federations is the foundation to improving recruitment and athlete development. Growing hockey means we have to work to recruit new players and to keep our current ones. I think that these principles summarize perfectly the shared experiences and best practices in growing the game at all levels.

“This IIHF approach to Sport Development is based on mentorship and knowledge-sharing. We rely on our membership to create recruitment and development campaigns within their countries, but at the same time we try to connect them with representatives from our top ice hockey nations so that they can benefit from the knowledge and experience that these countries have developed over decades of playing and recruiting for the sport.”

The Declaration of Principles is a joint commitment developed by and for hockey stakeholders globally to advance policies, programs and initiatives of their organizations – and inspire their respective fans, participants and communities - to create the best possible experience for the entire hockey community.

2% of players in North America make college hockey rosters; 0.01% make it to the NHL. Despite the statistics, there is still an arms race for scholarships and professional contracts. While youth players may or may not become future professionals, they all have the potential to become the future parents and coaches of the sport. For 100% of participants and their families, hockey provides benefits that transcend the game.

The Declaration of Principles

We believe every leader of the sport has the responsibility to inspire stakeholders in an effort to deliver a positive family hockey experience. Hockey participation offers families value beyond making an individual a better player or even a better athlete. The game of hockey is a powerful platform for participants to build character, foster positive values and develop important life skills. These benefits are available to all players, desirable to every family and transcend the game.

Today, guided by our common values, we jointly pledge to the following Principles:
  • Hockey should be an enjoyable family experience; all stakeholders – organizations, players, parents, siblings, coaches, referees, volunteers and rink operators – play a role in this effort.
  • Hockey’s greatest value is the role it plays in the development of character and life skills.
  • All hockey organizations – regardless of size or level of competition – bring value to players and families in their ability to deliver a positive family experience.
  • Physical activity is important for a healthy body, mind and spirit.
  • There are significant benefits of youth participation in multiple sports.
  • Hockey programs should be age-appropriate for all players, accounting for each individual’s physical, emotional and cognitive development.
  • There is great value in all forms of hockey, both on and off the ice.
  • All hockey programs should provide a safe, positive and inclusive environment for players and families regardless of race, colour, religion, national origin, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation and socio-economic status. Simply put, hockey is for everyone.
  • We believe in our ability to improve lives and strengthen communities globally through hockey. We believe that living by these Principles will provide a healthy, balanced and enjoyable experience for all and inspire impactful service beyond the rink.

“Over the last ten years, we have been focusing more resources on growing markets globally. Hockey is a game that builds character. We need to use that to our advantage,” said IIHF Council member Petr Briza.

17 Hockey organization from around the world are part of this campaign: American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA); American Hockey League (AHL); Canadian Hockey League (CHL); Canadian Junior Hockey League (CJHL); Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL); College Hockey Inc.; ECHL; Hockey Canada; International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF); National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA); National Hockey League (NHL); National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA); National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL); North American Hockey League (NAHL); U SPORTS; United States Hockey League (USHL); USA Hockey.

Bringing the Principles to Life

Hockey inherently offers families value beyond the game –it provides lessons in teamwork, respect, integrity, humility and much more. Organizations are already engaged in activities which promote these positive values which we will celebrate. That being said, the Declaration of Principles is also aspirational. It is a challenge to all of hockey’s stakeholders –all organizations, players, parents, siblings, coaches, referees, volunteers and rink operators –to shift attitudes, behaviors, policies, programs and initiatives for the betterment of the game.

What does it mean to “live by the principles”? From stakeholder to stakeholder, opportunities small and large exist to become part of a more positive family hockey experience for all. Below are just a few examples of how stakeholders live the principles:
  • Coaches consciously and intentionally using situations presented by the sport to emphasize the associative life skill
  • Development camps encouraging players to participate in sports other than ice hockey and communicating the benefits of doing so
  • Coaches speaking, listening and surveying parents about their child’s experience and welcoming their feedback
  • Youth players and their parents fundraising and/or raising awareness with their hockey team for a charitable cause
  • Rink operators reserving hours each week to accommodate orgs serving underrepresented, marginalized or disadvantaged people
  • Players bringing the game back home, engaging their parents, siblings and family members in roller, ball and knee hockey
  • Rink owners engaging in energy efficient practices to lower operating costs and cost of ice time
  • Organizations adapting cross-ice and half-ice programming for new and young players

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