A Toronto girls’ hockey league has issued a zero-tolerance, no-touch policy for coaches during games -- and the new directive is drawing some criticism off the ice.

The Toronto Leaside Girls’ Hockey Association issued the policy this week, telling coaches that they cannot do such things to players as put their hands on players’ shoulders, slap their bums or tap their helmets.

It follows a complaint about a gesture of congratulations from a coach to a player during a recent game that some parents felt was inappropriate.

David Trombley, who has been coaching hockey for 20 years, said he was not surprised to learn of the policy, and argues that it is better to be safe than sorry. Besides, he told CTV Toronto, “you don’t really need to” tap players’ helmets or shoulders.

“Obviously we’ve been taking steps ever since we’ve known that some bad things have happened to kids back in the ‘60s and ‘70s,” Trombley said. “Definitely we’re out here to protect the kids.”

Some parents had mixed feelings about the policy. For example, mother Lucy Winston told CTVthat the new rules should only apply to private moments -- and not during a game.

“I think it’s a real shame in a public situation on the bench that they’re not allowed to give a congratulatory tap,” Winston said Wednesday. “I absolutely understand behind closed doors and in the locker room, but maybe on the bench and on the ice, it’s a different situation.”

Another parent, Raquel O’Halloran, said such a policy has to be “realistic.”

“If it’s going to interrupt the game (or) play -- there’s going to be questions about camaraderie, it’s going to turn people away -- then it’s not a good idea,” she said.

One young player, Samantha Dinele, said she doesn’t like the new rule “because I think it’s good to have encouragement by our coaches.”

The Respect Group, which strives to prevent abuse, harassment and bullying in schools, sports organizations and workplaces, has its own guidelines for contact between young players and coaches.

But Mark Kelly, who works with the group, said the Leaside Girls’ Hockey Association’s policy goes beyond those guidelines. He told CTV Toronto that contact between players and their coaches is important.

“You may have a five- or six-year-old that comes off (the ice) and is holding back tears because they’ve been hurt,” he said. “So a hand on the shoulder to say, ‘Are you okay?’ is very appropriate and supportive in those circumstances.”

Hockey Canada does have general guidelines for coaches’ conduct, and they must take an online training course. However, the association does not set a national standard for coaches’ behaviour, and so individual leagues are free to set their own rules.

With a report from CTV Toronto’s Heather Wright


The issue about physical contact is a guideline only. Please know that we naturally understand that contact is part of the game. We also acknowledge that it is normal for volunteers to touch players in certain circumstances – e.g. helping with skates and helmets; assisting a young player on and off the bench; helping an injured player off the ice. The suggestion in the news media is that we have implemented a no contact policy. Please be assured that this is not the case.