“We wanted to get anyone in, who wants to come in, and play,” says Dr. Jared Butler, HNL vice-president and chief medical officer.
“If you read our mission statement, inclusive is alongside safe and fun and we think that’s three key things in growing the game,” says HNL executive director Craig Tulk. “Our whole focus and value is growing participation that is inclusive.”
The mission statement – To foster a safe, fun, inclusive hockey experience – was adopted in the spring of 2020. Tulk said the intention is ensure everyone, regardless of gender, ethnicity, disability or skill level, feels welcome on the ice anywhere in the province.
But the idea to include inclusiveness in the mission statement is linked to the HNL Trans Inclusion Policy, written by Dr. Butler in 2019.
“It was about trying to set a trend and set a marker for people to recognize that we need to be more inclusive and we need to have everybody involved in the game,” says Dr. Butler. “Hockey is Canada’s game and there’s no reason why, as someone whose gender identity is different from what they were born with … can’t participate.”
Dr. Butler cares for a variety of patients through his family and sports medicine practices in central Newfoundland and said he was inspired to create the policy after working with a patient through a difficult journey to find his own identity. He consulted with the young man’s parents, a child psychologist, a physician specializing in trans-medicine and a trans-athlete over the course of two months while writing the policy.
“Getting a kid involved who otherwise might not want to be involved and involved where they feel they want to play and who they want to play with, that’s the most important thing,” Dr. Butler says.
“[We want to be] able to let the public know players have the opportunity to participate in our programming in what’s comfortable for them,” Tulk adds.
The Trans Inclusion Policy provides details on athlete eligibility, a dressing room policy and implementation guide. But for Dr. Butler and Tulk, the most important role the policy is playing for HNL, is spreading the message everyone is welcome.
“We’re proud to this stage, but we’ve got a lot more work to do and we’re looking forward to it,” Tulk says.
“To think [athletes] can just go to the rink and play with who they want to play with and not think about it and for us to be that safe haven is just outstanding,” Dr. Butler says. “For me, that’s what it’s all about. If kids are happy and they’re enjoying the game and they’re getting to make friends, then this was all worth it.”
For more information on the Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador Trans Inclusion Policy, please visit HockeyNL.ca.