CHICAGO — Sheldon KennedyWill make it clear. He is not here to save the game of hockey. He doesn't do that with the Respect Group.
He wants to help.
Kennedy's Respect Group and the NHL have partnered to create a training program that helps prevent bullying, abuse, harassment, discrimination. Training for club and league employees will begin in March.
After an October reportThe matter was referred to an outside firm. Chicago BlackhawksKyle Beach's allegations that he was sexually assaulted and abused by Brad Aldrich, former first-round pick in the draft, were poorly handled.
Professional hockey has dealt with racism accusations for many years. The minor leaguers American Hockey LeagueThe ECHLThey were fired last month after being accused of making racist gestures towards Black players. A group of NHL players from color shared their experiences with racism during a powerful videoThis was published in January.
Kennedy stated that Respect Group is not the only thing that matters. “We don't live in a utopia to believe that issues such as Kyle's and other issues will never happen again.
“But I think we're trying do, we're in phase one. Phase 1 is to educate everyone within that organization so they're all on the same page.”
Kennedy McNeil (52), and Wayne McNeil (54), founded the Respect Group, in 2004. Kennedy says that the company has trained more then 1.8million people. These include hockey players, parents, officials and business owners.
Kennedy's contributions go far beyond the Respect Group.
Kennedy, an Elkhorn, Manitoba native, was sexually abused 12 years ago by a coach of the junior league. He spoke out in 1997. He went on an inline skating trip to Canada the following year to raise funds for victims of abuse. In 2011, he testified before a U.S. Senate Subcommittee, urging training for adults to supervise youth sports.
Kennedy stated, “I have learned, and I think that I was kind of brought up with, the fact that out of a terrible situation, there can still be some really great things (that) come from it if you choose to look at it that way.”
Kim Davis, executive vice president at the league, said that the Respect Group program is part one of the NHL’s four-phase Respect Hockey initiative. She stated that the goal is to establish a “consistent understanding, baseline, and baseline” regarding bullying, abuse harassment, discrimination, and other unacceptable behavior at all levels of hockey.
Davis stated that the work was a continuation of culture work that Davis has been doing for the past two years. “But the Kyle Beach incident forced us to reexamine the ways we can influence the entire hockey industry. It is clear that although we can do the right things at the NHL level, we must use our positionality and power to impact the whole hockey ecosystem.
Davis stated that the NHL considered several options for training, but Kennedy's Respect Group was the best option.
She said, “Then we can build from the foundation and be able move deeper into cultural competency training, anti-racism and homophobia training, and all of those dimensions that give people greater insight.”
Kennedy stated that the online training starts with a “leadership message” from the owner of the company or the president of the organization. This sets the tone. Participants must complete a pre-survey before they can participate in the interactive program. Kennedy stated that although the training isn’t hockey-specific it will ensure that each team has its own policies and procedures. After the program is over, there is another survey.
Kennedy stated that “I think we've done a lot to try to take all the knowledge of the researchers and the $26 words. We've tried really to street-level language all these topics that carry a significant amount fear and just grey matter.” Kennedy added, “and we've really attempted to make them understandable, and actionable.” So, it's obvious for anyone to understand and we try make it clear to guide them as to what to do.