The Town of Oyster Bay and National Hockey League Hall of Famer Pat LaFontaine are joining forces to help publicize the introduction of a new safety initiative known as the STOP Safety program for all participants in the town’s hockey leagues and instruction sessions, according to Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto.
“The program involves providing all youth players with special jerseys that include a three-inch STOP Patch on the center back to remind the opposing players that hits from behind are against the rules and may put players at unnecessary risk,” said Venditto. “Hockey is a fast-paced and exciting sport and players can get caught up in the action. The patch warns players to exercise caution and show respect for their fellow players, especially when their opponent is up against the boards with their back turned.”
LaFontaine, a U.S. States Olympian who went on to score more than 1,000 points in the National Hockey League with the New York Islanders, Buffalo Sabres and New York Rangers, said he was excited about the opportunity to promote an initiative that will put player’s safety first.
“This program is a true game changer because it will help players at a young age to become conditioned to not hitting opponents from behind when they are most vulnerable,” said LaFontaine. “Hockey is a great sport and the Town of Oyster Bay should be commended for the promotion of safe play and sportsmanship.”
The program has been implemented in other areas throughout the United States and Canada. However, the town’s STOP Safety Patch program is one of the first of its kind here on Long Island and is a significant component to building awareness around the importance of safe play. The STOP Patch on the jerseys will look identical to a regular street Stop Sign.
“We expect the end result to be safer play,” said Venditto. “In addition, parents have been extremely enthusiastic about this program, as it translates to increased peace of mind.”
Venditto also noted that the Town of Oyster Bay has one of the most vibrant and successful youth ice hockey programs in the country, with more than 25,000 players passing through the program since it started in 1971. The crown jewel for the Town of Oyster Bay, with respect to its ice hockey program, is the design and construction of a state of the art indoor ice skating center, which opened its doors in Bethpage back in 2008. This facility, which joins established outdoor town rinks in Woodbury and Massapequa, is generally considered to be among the finest in the area, and with the initiation of the Stop Safety Patch program, way ahead of the curve with its hockey program.
LaFontaine said he hopes the town’s initiative will encourage other municipalities and hockey clubs to fully participate in this awareness campaign.
“The bottom line is that a hit from behind can be extremely dangerous and should not be tolerated,” he said. “I believe the STOP Patch will make our game even safer for our young players.”
—From the Town of Oyster Bay