Early into the 2023-24 minor hockey season, many players and their parents are getting adjusted to a new policy from Hockey Canada.
This season, all minor hockey players are being encouraged to wear the base layer they wear under their equipment to the arena. If they don't do that, they will have to change into their base layer inside a closed washroom stall at the rink.
The new policy is trying to promote inclusion and to respect the privacy of all participants on a team. It is now the responsibility of all coaches and team staff to instruct players regarding the minimum attire rule and make sure they are in compliance with it.
"All participants have the right to utilize the dressing room or appropriate and equivalent dressing environment based on their gender identity, religious beliefs, body image concerns, and/or other reasons related to their individual needs," Hockey Canada spokesperson Esther Madziya said in a statement emailed to CBC News.
Until it becomes part of a players routine, there will likely be some confusion early in the season as both the young players and their parents get used to the new policy.
"It really doesn't take very long to jump into a washroom stall and do a quick change to get your base layer on underneath," said Craig Robinson, president of Halifax Hawks Minor Hockey. "Also these are pretty thin pieces of clothing and can quite often fit under a jacket or shirt anyway."
Hockey players who don't wear their base layer to the arena will have to put it on in a washroom stall at the rink. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)
Robinson outlined the new policy in a letter sent to parents of Halifax Hawks players last week.
The new policy affects all minor hockey players from the youngest level right up to the under-18 age division.
"This isn't just about gender, it's about everyone being comfortable," said Robinson. "Coaches can't always visually identify and automatically know what gender someone identifies with, so this just allows everybody to fit into that dressing room."
Robinson admits there has been some pushback from parents to the Hockey Canada change. He says they have legitimate hygiene concerns when it comes to sweaty and smelly under gear being worn to and from the rink. But he says it is a small price to pay to make sure that hockey is inclusive for everybody.
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