My website is the outgrowth from our first book, So Your Son Wants to Play in the NHL, published in 1998. As the result of the book, we received thousands of Emails from parents and players asking for our opinion or help in solving problems. We thought some of these questions had sufficient general interest to share with the greater hockey community and the web site was a convenient way to accomplish this. Most of these questions didn't get published because they involved situations that are much more serious than “how much curve should I have my stick” and are very disturbing.
Recently we got an Email from a father that was so disturbing that I concluded that unless amateur hockey gets cleaned up, I didn’t want my son to play the sport that has meant so much to my brothers and me. But just prohibiting my son from playing doesn’t solve the problem. I decided to try to do something to bring the sport back to what I thought it was when I was growing up – a place for fun, to improve my skills, and to learn life lessons.
So my father and I started an initiative, not knowing if it would go anywhere and not knowing if we were the proper ones to start it. We involved friends and acquaintances whose opinions and experience we respect. It has generated a program we call “IT PAYS”. IT PAYS is an acronym that stands for I Teach Positive Attitudes in Youth Sports
The working document is posted on the site. It is a work in progress. Our goal is to have this program available for youth associations for the 2002/2003 season. It will take some funding, some sponsors, some additional shaping and refining – all of which we are working on.
Your comments and suggestions are welcome.
One day in July, Dan came to me with his game face on. It’s a face I don’t see much. “Read this,” he said waving a piece of paper. It was an Email from a father that described a scene at a youth hockey tournament that was very disturbing. Cool heads prevailed and an incident was averted that would have undoubtedly made the national news and given hockey another black mark.
Dan continued, “We need to do something about this. There’s been beatings, murder, sexual assaults; and all this in the past season. Now this. When is enough enough? Is there a safe place for my son to play? Let's get 25 of the best hockey minds we know of and let’s start a discussion to see if we’re the only ones that are concerned about the current state of affairs in youth hockey.”
The "best hockey minds we know of" were other NHLers, coaches from mites to Juniors, media types, USA Hockey officials, mothers and fathers, and from Canada and the States. From these individuals we learned there was a common concern for the state of the sport, a common desire that something be done, and a common willingness to help see what could be done.
Several drafts of a proposed program were circulated. The work of several amateur hockey organizations were reviewed and they gave us their permission to incorporate what we thought was desirable into this program. Ideas were exchanged. Dan and I have crisscrossed the country speaking to Associations and USA Hockey clinics - talking about the principles incorporated in this initiative.
It is now published here for public review and comment. As Dan says, we’re not sure we are the ones to do this or that this is the time. But if not us, who? If not now, when? And if not at all, where will Dan's little boy, Bryan, have a place to play?
Jay M. Bylsma