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Daily Dish: USA Hockey is a Rudderless Ship? Junior Hockey News

Published: Monday, 17 May 2021  
By: Stephen Heisler, JuniorHockey.com


There are major issues at USA Hockey that prove the need for a change in leadership.

First, the hockey’s national governing body’s response to the growth and disruption of the United States Premier Hockey League, and inability to enforce its own zero tolerance policies, have led many to believe it is time for a change at the top.
 
When the USPHL decided to leave USA Hockey a few years back the general thought was that they would come back. Instead, the league has grown into a major problem for USA Hockey sanction programs. And that is before we get into the issues regarding the International Ice Hockey Federation. The USPHL has become an embarrassment for USA Hockey when having to face the international hockey community.
 
The USPHL Premier Division has expanded to 71 teams for the 2021-2022 season. Who knows, they could be up over 100 teams by September, and what has USA Hockey done to curb the growth? Absolutely nothing.
 
If anything, the lack of action by USA Hockey has inspired that growth. Frankly, it's embarrassing. Meanwhile USA Hockey programs continue to feel of brunt of the damage created by non-sanctioned hockey. And for what? When the USPHL decides to go all in with youth hockey, that’s when USA Hockey may decide to take action. By that time, it is going to be way too little way too late.
 
So, who is directly responsible for this mess the USPHL mess and the issues described below? You have to go to the top of USA Hockey to find that name and it's none other than Jim Smith.
 
Let’s look at major issue number two.  Complaints have made to the highest levels of USA Hockey (including the General Counsel) related to the situation with one of the teams in Wyoming over the past two years.  Yet, USA Hockey has ignored and elected to not enforce its zero-tolerance policy.  So, I have another question for Jim Smith and USA Hockey, would somebody there please define zero tolerance? The glaring issue regarding hazing and other related issues in Wyoming are reason enough for the immediate resignation of Jim Smith.
 
I sent this email to USA Hockey’s Director of Communications Dave Fischer last week:
 
Dave,
I'm in the middle of an article that addresses possible shortcomings in the zero-tolerance hazing policy.
 
The procedures listed have not been followed and there appears to be zero interventions from USA Hockey. In the case of the ******** *****, the team even admits there has been hazing in the local paper but justifies it with "it happens at all levels of high school and junior hockey" while players were more concerned with keeping the story straight then addressing the problem.
 
The evidence is overwhelming, yet the ***** were allowed to keep playing through to the end of the season.
 
So, I have a few questions I need quotes for.
 
1) What are the consequences for clear violations of zero tolerance policies?
 
2) Who at USA Hockey is responsible for corrective sanctions when operational standards are being ignored?
 
3) Yes, we know SafeSport is addressing issues from their perspective, but other clear violations occurred, yet there's been no official response from USA Hockey. Why is that?
 
4) What is USA Hockey's response to a parent that now must question the advantages of playing within a program sanctioned by USA Hockey?

 
To his credit, Dave Fischer did respond with a well thought-out statement.
 
Hi Stephen –
Hope things are well with you! Have you and family stayed healthy/sane during these odd pandemic times we are all navigating together? It’s been an interesting journey, that’s for sure. Seems like there is light at the end of the tunnel, so that’s good.
 
Relative to case you cite below, it is under the exclusive jurisdiction of the U.S. Center for SafeSport and we’re awaiting the result of their investigation. At this time, there is no part of the case that is not under the Center’s jurisdiction. Once their investigation is complete, we are obligated to fully abide by whatever their decision is, including enforcing any disciplinary action.
 
All the best,
Dave
 
It's very clear that Fischer, or USA Hockey, were never going to even get close to answering any of my questions. Why is that?
 
The remainder of the response would have been fine if I had not already had been interviewed by the lead investigator for the US Center for SafeSport. She said that her investigation was limited in scope to the sexual related complaints.
 
In a statement made to the parents of one of the victims, SafeSport officials said that USA Hockey did have the authority to immediately investigate, and take corrective actions against the team, on areas not exclusively reserved to SafeSport (e.g., sexual misconduct).  Yet, USA Hockey has gone on record to indicate that it would not take any action and would wait for SafeSport to conclude its investigation.  

Instead of facing the consequences for their behavior, many players from that team are now making their way up the ladder of development to college hockey teams. When that misguided behavior does get sideways again, will USA Hockey take some of the blame? Something else to consider, what does that repeated behavior say about USA Hockey's programs? It's not a matter of IF it happens again, it's just WHEN.
 
Yes, there appears to be an overabundance of USA Hockey putting its head in the sand and passing the buck of responsibility.  

What is USA Hockey waiting for in order to right the wrongs of their response to the USPHL and Wyoming?

It appears that we do need a change of leadership at the top to address these wrongs in order to the return integrity to USA Hockey and to enforce its “zero tolerance policies.”

What is it going to take for USA Hockey to do right by the game, its players and its policies?  Let’s hope it is not a player harming themselves while they wait the six to 12 months for SafeSport to investigate these wrongdoings, especially when USA Hockey has the ability to address it now.

Author: Stephen Heisler from JuniorHockey.com
Stephen Heisler has spent a lifetime in the game of hockey. Stephen is also working with individual teams, coaches, and players as a director with Victorious Hockey Company. Stephen, his wife Deysi, and four children reside in Orlando, Florida.


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