The NHL will implement changes to address a number of personnel conduct issues, Commissioner Gary Bettman said Monday.
Bettman made the announcement after the first day of the Board of Governors meeting at Pebble Beach.
According to Bettman, NHL personnel will undergo mandatory counselling regarding anti-bullying and racism. There will also be a hotline for reporting incidents.
Bettman said the league will adopt a zero tolerance policy going forward.
The changes come on the heels of a swath of misconduct allegations directed at coaches from players and former players. The charges levelled at former Calgary Flames coach Bill Peters were of special import, as he was accused of using racial slurs by former NHLer Akim Aliu.
According to Bettman, the NHL is still conducting its review of that incident.
The mandatory counselling program will be attended by all NHL coaches, assistant coaches, minor league coaches, general managers, and assistant GMs. There will be a focus on education and training on issues such as diversity and inclusion.
Teams will now be required to report any and all incidents of inappropriate behaviour by personnel. Failure to do so will result in what Bettman referred to as “severe discipline.”
As for the hotline, players and personnel will have the opportunity to remain anonymous as they report incidents and allegations of abuse and racism.
“As one of the preeminent professional sports leagues in the world and as the preeminent hockey league in the world, we recognize and embrace our role in setting an example,” Bettman said. “We now are obviously aware of conduct that was and is unacceptable. Whether it happened 10 years ago or last week, the answer must be the same: It is unacceptable.”
The implementation of the plan is said to be in the works as soon as possible. Bettman noted most NHL coaches seem to conduct themselves appropriately, but there are obvious incidents that are unacceptable. Those incidents are no longer acceptable to the National Hockey League, thankfully.
“Not everyone will approve of every coach’s methods,” Bettman said. “However there are lines that cannot be crossed. Clearly, physical abuse and racial and homophobic language cross the line.”
The NHL’s plan not only makes sense but is long overdue. It is a step in the right direction, a necessity when it comes to ensuring the league values equality and diversity as it should.
Photo credit: NHL