Public Address
Doug Palazzari
Senior Director, USA Hockey Youth and Education Programs
XXIn an effort to promote the best possible environment for all those involved in our sport, the USA Hockey Board of Directors has instituted several new policies to address adult behavior during and after all USA Hockey-sanctioned games. Over the years, our organization has developed extensive programs to educate the coaches, players, referees and administrators of the game. We are currently striving to provide the same attention to parents.

XXThey are an important, vital part of all youth hockey programs. Our local associations must provide the communication necessary to promote the true expectations of everyone involved, including parents. Parents pay for their children's participation, sacrifice time to transport their children to and from the rink and, many times, devote time in other capacities within the youth organization. However, this does not always mean they understand the full scope of USA Hockey's philosophy pertaining to youth players, which is to promote sportsmanship, fair play and enjoyment of the game.

XXAs a result, we have asked all of our organizations to conduct Parent Education Seminars. We realize that the vast majority understand the perspectives we hope to promote but I would be less than honest if I didn't suggest that there are parents who have demonstrated inappropriate and detrimental behavior. It would be very easy to ignore these problems because they are difficult to address. But to do so would not be consistent with our organization's mission to provide a responsible environment for conduct in youth hockey. We simply ask everyone to acknowledge their responsibility so that our youngsters will gain what they truly deserve from playing hockey. We want to be the model youth sports organization.

XXAs a former professional player, I understand how victories and money dictate the measurement of success at that level. This attitude often permeates the youth level where the true measure of success is personal growth and development. These are conflicting scenarios. We must be sure to understand the life lessons that are the main goals of youth sports.

XXAt the professional level, players have essentially completed their personal and athletic development. We can't have the same expectations of those in the developmental stages. Our role is to appreciate the incremental accomplishments true to all who participate. They need and deserve our most positive and enthusiastic support of their efforts. We must be role models for sportsmanship, teamwork and self-control if we expect them to succeed and gain the life-long lessons available through youth hockey.

XXIf your association isn't conducting Parent Education Seminars, please contact your local USA Hockey volunteer leadership and request they support this venture to further an understanding of our common goals. Materials for these sessions are available from your USA Hockey district registrar.

XXGood luck and have a safe and successful hockey season.






USA Hockey Senior Director,

Youth and Education Programs



USA Hockey Adult

Behavioral Task Force

The USA Hockey Adult Behavioral Task Force met in Chicago this past fall to address a concern of USA Hockey: a disturbing trend in which the behavior of adults (parents and spectators) negatively impacts youth hockey and its participants. This concern is not unique to hockey. We are addressing a societal issue of behavior which surrounds sports at all levels. USA Hockey can be a model for other youth sports by effectively implementing programs and policies to change behavior, to provide a positive experience for the growth of participants as players and as citizens, and for the great game of hockey in all its forms.

Based upon a philosophy that sport is a mini-society, it is - or can be - a model for life. It is an effective teaching tool or system for positive and negative behavior. The role models of sports have a significant potential for impact on youth and society. Behavior which is permissible in hockey is exhibited and expressed in all life's "arenas." In addition to being an exciting sport, a great recreational or leisure time experience, and a challenge for players to be the best that they can be, youth hockey is also a powerful teaching tool for society. If we embrace that philosophy, which most of us do, then we have an obligation to provide an atmosphere where this impact is positive and acceptable.

The following information represents, in part, a comprehensive plan developed by the task force, through group discussion and projects, to address the situation:

Mission Of The Task Force

The mission of the Adult Behavior Task Force is to identify the problems and causes of inappropriate and detrimental parent and spectator behavior in youth hockey and to develop and propose to USA Hockey recommendations to address these problems.

Issues And Causes

The task force identified a multitude of issues and causes of inappropriate behavior by parents and spectators, including lack of respect for the sport and its participants.


Through the small group projects and the full group interaction, two major avenues for solutions to the issues and causes were developed: consideration of changes/additions to USA Hockey rules, policies and educational programs, and the offering of informational seminars for parents and spectators.

Zero Tolerance Policy

In an effort to make ice hockey a more desirable and rewarding experience for all participants, the USA Hockey Youth, Junior and Senior Councils have instructed the Officiating Program to adhere to certain points of emphasis relating to sportsmanship. This campaign is designed to require all players, coaches, officials, team officials, administrators and parents/spectators to maintain a sportsmanlike and educational atmosphere before, during and after all USA Hockey-sanctioned games.

The Task Force recommends the following changes to the Zero Tolerance Policy:


The game will be stopped by on-ice officials when parents/spectators displaying inappropriate and disruptive behavior interfere with other spectators or the game. The on-ice officials will identify violators to the coaches for the purpose of removing parents/spectators from the spectators' viewing and game areas. Once removed, play will resume. Lost time will not be replaced and violators may be subject to further disciplinary action by the local governing body. This inappropriate and disruptive behavior shall include:

  • Use of obscene or vulgar language in a boisterous manner to anyone at any time.
  • Taunting of players, coaches, officials or other spectators by means of baiting, ridiculing, threat of physical violence or physical violence.
  • Throwing of any object in the spectators' viewing area, prayers' bench, penalty box or on the ice surface, directed in any manner as to create a safety hazard.

Parent Education Seminar

The USA Hockey Behavioral Task Force recommends that each local association creates a new volunteer position to help educate parents and enforce the expectations of the Parent's Code of Conduct. This position will be called the Parent Education Coordinator. He/she will be selected by the local association. The affiliate should also consider appointing one person to oversee the promotion and implementation of parent seminars for their members. These seminars should discuss the issues listed relative to parent/spectator behavior. Materials are currently being developed for these seminars.

 Note: The USA Hockey Adult Behavioral Task Force recognizes that 90 percent of parents and spectators are a positive, contributing factor. The task force aims to assist youth hockey by focusing on the disruptive actions of a few that adversely affect the sport for the vast majority.