USA Hockey Magazine

December 2016

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DECEMBER 2016 USAHOCKEYMAGAZINE.COM // 19 T hey pop out of the locker room, covered from head to toe in plastic shells and protective padding, fierce looking little gladiators ready for battle. Underneath all that armor, it's hard to imagine that anything could possibly happen to them. What makes hockey such a great game to play and so much fun to watch – the speed, intensity, non-stop action and physicality – also makes it open to the risk of injury. From tougher equipment standards to strict- er rule enforcement to better coaching educa- tion, USA Hockey is always trying to make the game safer at every level. But no rule will keep players safe if it's not properly enforced. No piece of gear, no matter how cutting edge, will protect them if not fitted properly and worn correctly. No amount of coaching education will help if it falls on deaf ears. Keeping our kids protected in a safe environ- ment while holding true to all the things that make our game so much fun is the responsibili- ty of everyone, from players to parents, coaches to officials. It takes a team effort to make the game as safe as possible. And it all boils down to one word: R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Coaches Teaching players how to play the right way is a responsibility that rests on the shoulders of coaches. Do you preach good sportsmanship or encourage a culture of intimidation? Do you shout words of encouragement and instruc- tion from your perch behind the bench or do you spew vile and venom toward officials and opposing players? Remember, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. If a coach loses his cool on the bench, why would anyone think his players would act any different when they step on the ice? "Kids need to be encouraged to compete the right way at a young ag e," said Kevin McLaughlin, Senior director of hockey devel- opment at USA Hockey. "It's a philosophy that a coach has and instills in his team. We want to play hard, we want to play fast, we want to play aggressive, we want to compete, but we're not here to hurt anybody." SAFETY ISSUE THE PHOTO BY Getty Images

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