IIHF stands against abuse and harassment
by Andy POTTS|07 JUN 2023
The IIHF is speaking up in support of a collective effort to tackle potentially the biggest threat facing sport – abuse and harassment of athletes and other persons involved in ice hockey.

Ashley Ehlert, the IIHF’s Deputy Secretary General and Legal Director, joined a high-profile forum in London, England, last week to discuss “violence in sport and safeguarding”. The event was organized by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), which represents 46 countries.

Speaking before a panel that included representatives from the IOC, FIFA, the ECPAT child protection network and the PACE, Mrs Ehlert said: “We need to get our sports, the leaders of our sports and the leaders of our governments to stop, listen, stand up and take action.”

“We cannot let anything get in the way of stopping what I think is the biggest threat to sport that we will ever face.”

One problem we see in ice hockey is the power imbalance between coaches and GMs, who have the capacity to make or break players’ careers, and the players themselves. This can lead to a toxic culture, something the IIHF is determined to stamp out.

“With our integrity awareness-raising week, we wanted to send a clear message that the IIHF will not stand for this behaviour, and we will step in to stop it,” said Mrs Ehlert.

The integrity campaign gave a voice to a group of ambassadors, individuals from the hockey family who have been victims of abuse and harassment and other integrity issues. Amplifying their stories helped to raise the profile of issues that are often swept under the carpet – and helped the federation to understand what further work is needed.

“The integrity awareness-raising week which launched ahead of our Championship season in December last year was effective in getting out key integrity messages but it also helped the IIHF in uncovering the gaps that we still have in our system,” Mrs Ehlert said. “It allowed us to learn that most people do not know about our reporting mechanism. They do not know how to report and those that do know how to report may not feel safe to report.”

“It allowed us to learn that currently we do not have the expertise and capabilities to deal with what is coming to our table. It was effective because it has allowed us to plan how we can move forward and what we can do better.”

The IIHF stands behind a trauma informed approach where victims can get the help and support they need at the local and nation level, but feels a level of international involvement will be crucial to create an effective system.

To combat some of the problems in the hockey community, the IIHF has started various initiatives including developing a coaching curriculum and coach’s education. The IIHF has five and 10-year plan to change some of the cultural behaviour that has historically been accept in ice hockey. In addition, there is a big role for member national associations to play in drawing up watertight and enforceable rules in their countries.

“Many times we have seen coaches or other person in the ice hockey ecosystem get out of cases because the rules were not clearly defined and they were able to find loopholes,” Mrs Ehlert explained. “We are working to ensure that our rules, and the rules of our member federations, do not allow for this. That way, we can remove bad actors and create a deterrent in the ice hockey system.”

For more details on the IIHF’s commitment to integrity in all aspects of our sport, please visit our online Integrity hub. To report issues of abuse and harassment, use this reporting form or email [email protected]. Alternatively, reports can be sent to the IOC hotline at ioc.integrity.org.