Earlier this week the Ontario Hockey League launched a new initiative aimed at increasing the understanding and awareness players have when it comes to respecting women.
It's intent is to support and help OHL players develop the right attitudes, words and actions towards women.
Called OHL ONSIDE, the program has been created in partnership with the Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres. Local sexual assault centres are also involved with the project.
It's a two-hour seminar for players and team staff that is now mandatory. The Erie Otters and Kitchener Rangers have already taken part as pilot projects this season.
It stems from a 2014 initiative undertaken by the Peterborough Petes, when they partnered with the Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre to hold workshops with the Petes players.
Following the success of that program, the OHL asked the Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre, who teamed with the one in Waterloo, to come up with a program that could be implemented league-wide.
Treating women the right way begins with thinking about women the right way and talking about women the right way.
OHL ONSIDE is working at educating and creating the proper behaviour and attitudes. Showing players and team personnel that they have a responsibility, not an option, to treat women the right way.
“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.
The timing is right.
Recently, former Windsor Spitfire Ben Johnson was convicted of sexual assault while still a member of the Spitfires and former Guelph Storm goaltender Michael Giugovaz was charged with sexual assault in relation to an incident that happened in a Peterborough bar.
While those cases are obviously extreme, they are part of the spectrum of what can happen if women are not treated with respect.
The OHL ONSIDE program doesn't assume the worst. In fact it assumes the best, that OHL players are leaders in the community, people that are looked up to by males in the community and are role models.
It helps those players understand that role when it comes to developing attitudes and behaviour towards women.