Toronto, ON – The Ontario Hockey League (OHL) in partnership with the Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres (OCRCC), with the collaboration of the Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre (KSAC) and the Sexual Assault Support Centre of Waterloo Region (SASC), today announced a new partnership and launch of a new initiative called OHL ONSIDE.
The OHL ONSIDE program has been specifically designed for OHL players and team staff aimed at increasing the understanding and awareness of the player’s responsibility to demonstrate respect for women through their actions and words.
“Players are the most important part of our game and we’re proud to further enhance our player environment to continue developing leaders on the ice and in the community with the introduction of the OHL ONSIDE program,” said OHL Commissioner David Branch. “We are grateful for the partnership with the Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres, and for the support we’ve received from the Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre, and the Sexual Assault Support Centre of Waterloo Region, in developing a leading edge program we can deliver across the league.”
The project has been developed as a two hour workshop with opportunity for personal development and ongoing leadership as young men in the OHL. This initiative will see the OHL as leaders in promoting the importance of respectful relationships between young men and women in their communities.
“Everyone has a role in disrupting violence against women. This starts with challenging everyday attitudes, words and actions,” said Nicole Pietsch, Coordinator, Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres. “We know that most athletes, men and young men, wish to foster respect for women — and want to know how they can mentor others to do so as well. The Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres (OCRCC) commends the OHL ONSIDE program to do just this. We are proud to endorse the OHL ONSIDE program.”
The OHL ONSIDE program stems from a training session in 2014 between KSAC and the Peterborough Petes to help players understand the importance of respecting women.
“We have worked closely with the Peterborough Petes organization for a number of years and the idea of a curriculum for OHL players was influenced by this work,” said Sonya Vellenga, Executive Director, Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre. “In co-creating the toolkit with the SASC from Waterloo Region and collaborating with the Ontario Hockey League, we were able to produce curriculum that can be delivered through our network to all players and staff of the Ontario Hockey League member teams. We believe that respect for women through actions and words is a community responsibility and we look forward to continued work with the OHL in promoting messages of equality and safety in relationships and in community.”
Following the success of the Petes’ program in 2014, the OHL requested KSAC to design a similar training for all teams. In 2015, SASC was brought on to help KSAC develop OHL ONSIDE because of their expertise in engaging men through their Male Allies program.
“We were thrilled to be asked to create curriculum for OHL ONSIDE,” said Joan Tuchlinsky, Public Education Manager at the Sexual Assault Support Centre of Waterloo Region (SASC). “Since 2008, SASC has been a leader in engaging boys and men through our Male Allies Program. This program offers workshops, trainings, and youth groups focused on healthy relationships and consent.”
“OHL ONSIDE doesn’t approach OHL players as potential perpetrators; we approach them as potential leaders,” said Stephen Soucie, Male Allies Program Coordinator. “In this sense, the curriculum we’ve created provides players with a safe space to reflect on the ways in which their lives have been influenced by toxic ideas of masculinity. It focuses on OHL players’ responsibility to model respect for women.”
So far this season OHL ONSIDE has been introduced to the Erie Otters and Kitchener Rangers as pilot programs. With today’s launch, OHL ONSIDE becomes a mandatory program that will work in conjunction with the OHL’s other league programs in areas such as mental health awareness, drug awareness, health and safety education, and will become an important piece of the league’s ‘Players First’ guide.
OHL ONSIDE will be facilitated locally to OHL clubs by OCRSS Public Educators. The program will also include a game-night awareness component in partnership with OHL clubs and local sexual assault centres. Specific game-night dates will be announced by clubs later this season.
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