Premier asks to reconsider post-game handshake as Hockey NL reiterates decision to move to pre-game handshake

Posted: December 22, 2023 12:31 pm
By Web Team

On Thursday Hockey NL announced the end of post-game handshakes after the Christmas break.

Now, Premier Andrew Furey is weighing in, and has sent a letter to Hockey NL President Jared Butler asking the group to reconsider.

“Ensuring the well-being of our young athletes is of course paramount, and I recognize that Hockey NL has been a leader in advancing safe sport in Newfoundland and Labrador. While I support efforts that protect the physical and mental health of athletes, I was disappointed to hear that Hockey NL has chosen the elimination of post-game handshakes as a mechanism to do so.

As a player and parent of a young hockey player, I view post-game handshakes as an opportunity to teach young players the meaning and value of sportsmanship, allowing them the time to meet their opponent and offer congratulations, regardless of the outcome. Removing post-game handshakes removes that opportunity.

I respectfully ask that Hockey NL further explain and possibly reconsider this decision, and seek out other alternatives that will promote player safety while continuing to practice this time- honored tradition.”

Hockey NL released a statement in response, reiterating its decision to move to a pre-game handshake. 

“The custom of a handshake in sport is meant to provide an opportunity for players to wish their opponents good luck and, as such, there is an argument that it should occur before a game starts. In addition, including the handshake gesture at the beginning of a game reduces the potential risk from any heightened animosity that can occur between opposing players throughout the course of a game.  

“Minor Council of Hockey NL plans to trial the pre-game handshake in the New Year. The aim is to ensure that respect and sportsmanship is still involved between players and teams, with a view to reducing the risk for post-game altercations, which have caused a significant challenge for players, coaches, teams, parents, officials, and Minor Council. To be clear, the handshake is not being eliminated – Minor Council has simply made the decision to move when it is to be conducted. At present, coaches of both teams and on-ice officiating staff engage in a pre-game handshake. With this trial, the players will also be included in this pre-game practice.

“This change in player handshake protocol was proposed by a Hockey NL official during a discipline hearing related to a post-game altercation that occurred this past fall. Their rationale was that eliminating the opportunity for an altercation at the end of game was better than penalizing after the altercation took place. They pointed to the example of soccer conducting their handshake protocol and sportsmanship gesture prior to the game as a point of reference. When the topic was discussed by Minor Council, all members viewed a trial of a pre-game handshake protocol as an opportunity to enhance sportsmanship.

“Hockey NL strives to be a leader in safe and respectful sport by undertaking such initiatives as the Green Armband program to protect junior officials.  Volunteers with Hockey NL work tirelessly to drive change in a direction that is positive. As is noted above, this is a trial. The goal of the trial is to inform whether the shift in player handshake protocol will become a long-term practice and part of our programming. This is new and it is different, but it is like what is seen in other sports and in other divisions of hockey.  With the goal of instilling the values of good sportsmanship, respect, and comradery while working towards our mission of safe, fun, and inclusive hockey experiences, an evaluation of the impact of this trial change will inform us as to its benefits in the long run, which may then be applied to other divisions such as girls/women’s hockey. (e.g. Female Division).”

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