A year into the making, the NHL and NHL Players' Association have launched an education initiative that features presentations to players on all 30 clubs aimed at raising awareness of domestic abuse and sexual assault and harassment.
The presentations began with three teams Monday and will run through late February with a specific focus on prevention, said Jessica Berman, the NHL's vice president of special projects and corporate social responsibility.
The NHL and NHLPA have been working on the education initiative since last year. While the Ray Rice 2014 incident in the NFL raised the issue to new heights in pro sports, the NHL had its own cases over the past year and a half, including Slava Voynov's arrest while with the Los Angeles Kings.
"I think our history shows that generally our players are responsible in this area, but obviously our players are not immune to societal problems, and this is a societal problem," Berman told ESPN.com on Tuesday. "Additionally, it's important to note that we've been focusing on domestic violence and sexual assault for decades; it's been part of our league-wide player education programs in various forms and formats for decades. This is not new in that regard, it's only a new presentation of it.''
For years, the league and NHLPA have provided support in this area to players via their substance abuse/behavioral health program, which they jointly run. Part of the new presentation to players not only is to raise awareness of the issues, but also remind them that doctors in the SABH program always are available to address, assess and treat any issues that arise.
Those doctors are working closely with the league and NHLPA, and they are aware of the new education initiative with respect to it potentially leading to any outreach from players.
Outside professionals and experts in the field of domestic abuse and sexual assault have been hired to address the players in the presentations. And there's no sugar-coating the issues in a dialogue that's very direct to the players.
The bottom line, said Berman, is to raise the players' awareness of an important societal issue, to help them identify what they should have a heightened awareness about and to make sure they have the resources needed to get help.
In September, about 90 NHL rookies were given a similar presentation at a meeting in Virginia as part of the NHL-NHLPA rookie orientation program.