CJHL Pilot Project Creates New Standards for Player Safety in Year One
The Canadian Junior Hockey League (CJHL) has declared the Junior A Supplement Pilot Project a success after in-depth review of the new initiative. In August 2010, a group of five member Leagues within the Canadian Junior Hockey League showcased an exceptional commitment to player safety with the announcement of a joint effort to eliminate violence and bullying from Junior A hockey. The League Presidents and Commissioners recently met in Calgary, Alberta to discuss potential revisions to the Junior A Supplement for the 2011-2012 season and further review the successful results of year one.
The Junior A Supplement is an unprecedented joint initiative between the CJHL and Hockey Canada. The Junior A Supplement was created to protect junior-aged hockey players by addressing actions such as blows to the head, dangerous hits, accumulated major penalties, instigators and unnecessary fighting.
“At the start of the 2010-2011 season we implemented an innovative, proactive and responsible approach to addressing player safety issues facing hockey today, including head shots and dangerous hits,” said CJHL Chairman Kirk Lamb. “The CJHL and its leagues were ahead of the curve and we have since seen other leagues, such as the NHL and the CHL, follow suit in implementing more focused and rigid regulations relating to these issues. Player safety is a concern at all levels of hockey, for a variety of different reasons, and the CJHL broke new ground with the Junior A Supplement and has set new standards – not only in Junior A hockey, but for sport at all levels.”
The fundamental themes surrounding the Junior A Supplement are safety, education and communication. The Junior A Supplement increases team, coach and player accountability through the tracking of repeat offenders, increased suspensions and significant financial penalties. The Junior A Supplement dramatically heightened the awareness of issues surrounding player safety and dangerous hits throughout the League, including the players, game officials, coaches, media and fans.
Publications regarding the new Junior A Supplement were strategically dispersed at the onset of the 2010-2011 season to ensure all participants were educated of the pilot project and to further increase the chances of success. Players and game officials received handbooks created specifically to address their participation in the project. All coaches were also required to sign a ‘Coaches Code of Conduct’ which outlines their responsibility to the initiative and a commitment to player safety.
The five leagues involved in the Junior A Supplement experienced several positive advancements throughout the first year of the pilot project. Leagues could now clearly identify trends and repeat offenders and can also confirm that only a small percentage of players are repeating what would be considered dangerous acts. The Junior A Supplement forced these players to alter their behavior in a positive way. Staged fights and multiple fight situations were all but eliminated, and players participating in six or more fights throughout the season declined substantially across all leagues.
Competitiveness within the League from top to bottom increased in 2010-2011, “The quality of play and skill exhibited within the MJHL this past season was the best the League has seen in the past ten years,” stated Manitoba Junior Hockey League (MJHL) Commissioner Kim Davis.
The participants within the Junior A Supplement include the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL), Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL), Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL), Manitoba Junior Hockey League (MJHL), and Maritime Junior Hockey League (MHL). The two-year pilot project will compare data from the participating leagues using the Junior A Supplement and a control group from the Ontario Junior Hockey League (OJHL) using Hockey Canada Playing Rule 6.7. The data will determine whether fighting is reduced in the Junior A game by ejecting a player for his first fighting major and the effect on other violent behavior.