TORONTO - During the World Cup of Hockey 2016, a best-on-best international tournament featuring more than 160 NHL players from 14 different countries, members across the hockey community convened at the Hockey Hall of Fame to discuss the role of hockey in a wider social context with a focus on diversity, sustainability, and youth hockey development within the game.
On Sept. 19, at the first inaugural Hockey SENSE summit, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA Executive Director Don Fehr, welcomed hockey leaders from across the globe to discuss the issue of diversity, inclusion and environmental sustainability. Featuring NHL alumnus Willie O'Ree, the first black player in the NHL; Harnarayan Singh, the first-ever Hockey Night in Canada Punjabi commentator; and Cassie Campbell-Pascall, two-time women's hockey Olympic gold medalist and national broadcast commentator, the morning's content highlighted the international growth in the sport and the culture around that type of diversity. Three-time Stanley Cup Champion and Hockey Hall of Fame member Igor Larionov sharing his story on breaking down the barriers that subsequently paved the way for members of the former Soviet Union to play in the NHL. The day concluded with an in-depth discussion on the environmental challenges that challenge the game and the role of the hockey community in promoting green initiatives. Stanley Cup Champion and current President of BrightCore Energy Mike Richter, who has devoted his post-playing career to improving sustainability of ice rinks, gave his opinion on how the hockey community can take an active role in protecting the game's traditional landscape for future generations to enjoy.
"In Canada, hockey breaks down barriers, hockey bridges the gap between cultures, and hockey unites society. Hockey is that universal force...and I'm humbly standing here before you...as proof." - Harnarayan Singh
"Our sport is affected by climate change more than any other; our game was born on the frozen ponds of North America. The availability of free ice creates the culture we love. We want this sport to continue to be available to all. In order to do so, we need to preserve the outdoor rink."- Mike Richter
"Billions of us, over hundreds of years, made environmentally ignorant decisions. Now we need billions of us, over a shorter amount of time, to make environmentally intelligent decisions…The truth is, the NHL is leading the sports greening movement, you're the most environmentally committed league in the world, and that is the truth." - Allen Hershkowitz
The second Hockey SENSE summit at the Hockey Hall of Fame focused on youth hockey development including coaching, age-appropriate development, and the integration of hockey's core values - perseverance, hard work, and commitment - that transcend the game. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA Executive Director Don Fehr gave opening remarks, with former NHL and international hockey stars including: Pat LaFontaine (NHL), Mathieu Schneider (NHLPA), Adam Graves (Team North America), Miroslav Satan (Team Europe) and Luc Robitaille (Los Angeles Kings), continuing the conversation on how to encourage participation within the game, improve the experience for players and their families and how to better support grassroots hockey. In addition, many international hockey federations participated in the summit, including Canada, the United States, Sweden, Russia, Czech Republic, Hungary and Germany.
"The development of players, and encouraging young people to be interested in our game, is important -- not because they might grow up to be hockey stars but because hockey players view the world with a greater sense of responsibility, focusing on teamwork, hard work, physical fitness and being a good student. Our game can have a greater impact on society as a whole if it delivers the right messages and promotes important core values." - Commissioner Bettman
"We need to ensure we provide a safe and fun environment where children can learn and enjoy themselves while playing hockey. If we do that, young players will develop leadership skills, learn the value of hard work, and the importance of being part of a successful team, which will serve them well both on and off the ice." - Don Fehr, NHLPA Executive Director
"Hockey provides sustainable values that we, as the leaders, need to communicate: leadership, teamwork, life skills; not everyone will become a pro hockey player, not everyone is going to get a college scholarship, but in time, hockey can make you a better father, mother, worker -- a better person." - Pat LaFontaine
"When you look at what's happening with our kids playing hockey, they are getting pushed out by the system that is currently in place. When coaches are telling nine year olds that they can't play other sports because they need to be playing or training for hockey all year, there is something wrong with that. Sport specialization is hurting our kids physically as well as mentally. The NHLPA and NHL, along with other hockey organizations, need to be leaders in putting the values back in sports." - Mathieu Schneider
"If a coach delivers the right message, it can change your life. There are a lot of things you don't want to hear from your parents, but if your coach tells you, you accept it. When done right, the influence on kids is powerful, it stays with you forever." - Luc Robitaille
The 'Hockey Sense' summits were coordinated by the NHL and NHLPA in partnership with Beyond Sport, a global non-profit organization that promotes positive social change through sport.