Safety Culture in Hockey?

It appears the National Hockey League is not concerned about the Safety Culture it is nurturing by refusing to address the violent hits that are occurring in professional hockey. During the 2011 hockey season Sidney Crosby has been suffering from symptoms of a concussion and has clearly voiced his concern over the frequency of violent hits in the NHL. In fact the Vancouver Sun stated the star power provided by Crosby’s stance “has the potential to change the NHL game for the better”. This hasn’t yet been the case.

Following the vicious hit Zedeno Chara delivered on Max Pacioretty on March 8, 2011 The Globe & Mail reported on an Air Canada document which stated from a “corporate social responsibility standpoint, it is becoming increasingly difficult to associate our brand with sports events which could lead to serious and irresponsible accidents”. Here we have an example of a corporate citizen ready to take action on a sport and safety issue.

The Montreal Canadiens owner Geoff Molson is another example of an individual and organization willing to spearhead a change. Geoff is a young owner who will likely face significant opposition for saying “Players’ safety in hockey must become the ultimate priority and the situation must be addressed immediately”. This is the owner of an organization looking out for the well-being of his employees and is a stance that should be commended not reprimanded.

Unfortunately, thus far, the NHL appears to be more concerned about their “product” than the players who produce it. Right now there are many forums soliciting feedback, but it appears the public is backing the sentiment that the NHL needs to address violent hits that are becoming a trademark of the league. As ironic as it sounds some bloggers are convinced the plexiglass is to blame. While I agree there is a design flaw that should be addressed please don’t miss out on the bigger picture.

The issue is much bigger than just the NHL, it resides in local rinks from one end of this country to the other. Canadian rinks containing players who will follow the lead of the professionals they aspire to become. Now is the time to apply a culture change. One columnist even refers to this as NHL’s steroid moment when “people hold a mirror up to the face of the game and simply say enough with the excuses, it’s time to change.”

Which of these organizations have a safety culture you would like to emulate? Are you willing to wait until change is imposed on you? Perhaps you are a trailblazer looking for ways you can be a proactive leader and define your Safety Culture.

Follow-up … I am happy to report that media and corporate pressure had a positive impact in addressing the immediate safety concerns.

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