OHL launches program to teach players respect for women

A pilot project of the program started with the Kitchener Rangers and the Peterborough Petes last year.

One goal of OHL Onside program includes teaching players to show respect for women through their actions

The Ontario Hockey League is introducing an education program that will teach all its players about respecting women. (Canadian Press)

The Ontario Hockey League, on Tuesday, announced its mandatory program to teach players to respect women.

One of the goals of the OHL Onside program, announced in Peterborough, includes teaching players to consider how their words and actions demonstrate respect.

League vice president Ted Baker expects players and staff to buy into the curriculum, which will be taught by sexual assault experts in communities that have OHL teams.

"This will be something that will really be one of the pillars of our league," he said.

The two-hour program will be delivered once-a-year. According to Lydia Fiorini, the executive director of the Sexual Assault Crisis Centre of Essex County, the culture is changing in sports, especially in professional leagues.

"You're starting to see different shifts with regards to NFL players, NHL players in terms of their charges of domestic violence and the league really being really punitive as a result of those potential charges," Fiorini said.

She hopes early starts for programs like this with feeder teams like the OHL will prevent some of those negative behaviours.

"Many times they witness a lot of things, but don't know what to say," Fiorini said. "This is an opportunity for them to start doing some preplanning in case they are confronted with those negative behaviours or stereotypes. So that they can actually speak out and actually work towards ending violence."

A pilot project started last year with the Kitchener Rangers and the Peterborough Petes last year. 

The league, which has some of the best players in the world, wants to set a good example for its players.

Windsor Spitfire convicted

Windsor Spitfire player Ben Johnson was convicted earlier this year of sexual assault. He has since been released on bail as his lawyers appeal that decision.

Women's groups in Windsor applaud the league's program. Having older players set an example for younger players will help with existing programs, explained officials from Hiatus House, a shelter for abused women.

Several years ago, Hiatus House started the Shine the Light campaign, which encourages people to wear purple in November to raise awareness about abuse against women.

The group also works with minor hockey teams, promoting respect for women by putting purple tape on their hockey sticks, according to Karry Plaskitt, who is a Shine the Light coordinator.

"It's definitely good news," she said of the OHL program. "Hopefully, they can help us as well to shine light on women abuse."

OHL officials partnered with the Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres to come up with the program. Other groups consulted include the Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre and the Sexual Assault Support Centre of Waterloo Region​.