This handbook intends to provide players and parents with information regarding NFHL activities and policies.
Philosophy of NFHL
The Northwest Florida Hockey League (NFHL) offers the opportunity for the boys and girls of the Northwest Florida area to participate in both recreational and competitive ice hockey programs. In addition to individual and team skill development, NFHL seeks to foster the “whole” child’s development, including such life skills as sportsmanship, mutual respect, integrity, responsibility, teamwork, friendship, and a love for the sport.
The Board of Directors consists of seven elected volunteers serving for a year in different capacities. Each director in our league represents a specific age group to best serve our members. We also have three positions appointed by the Board, and they serve for at least two years due to the nature of their job.
The Board of Directors usually meets monthly or as needed. If there is an item you would like to include on the agenda, you should contact the board’s president to request an invitation. The request must be submitted at least five business days before the meeting. The Board of Directors encourages communication and parent feedback. Board meetings will be listed in the events section and minutes posted on the website. Board meetings are not a forum for grievances. If you have a complaint or a problem that cannot be resolved by the team manager, we would appreciate your contacting the President via email. He/she will make the necessary recommendations to the conflict resolution or disciplinary committee as deemed appropriate.
NFHL understands that to be successful, we must get information and feedback from the association’s members. To ensure communication needs are being met, the following communication devices have been put in place:
The NFHL Website will be the first line of communication. All newsletters, board meeting minutes, contact information, forms, and handbooks will be available on the website. The website will be maintained and kept up to date with the most current information available. Under construction signs will be posted on pages where information is not ready for distribution. For questions or comments about our website, contact the website administrator.
An email will be the first method of choice when sending out communications to the board members. You must check your emails and the team app regularly since there can occasionally be last-minute changes in schedules. If you do not have an email or are not on the team app, it is your responsibility to make arrangements to ensure you get the information. If you do not have a current email address on file with NFHL, please go to your account and update your contact information.
NFHL Board meeting dates will be posted on the events page of the website.
Individuals are invited to attend all routine board meetings. If there is an item you would like to include on the agenda, you should contact the board’s president to request an invitation. The request must be submitted at least five business days before the meeting.
Annual member meetings will be held at the end of the season. The exact date, time, and location of these meetings will be posted on the NFHL website, and distributed through team managers, and an e-mail notification will be sent to all members.
NFHL is affiliated with USA Hockey, the national governing body of ice hockey, and the Statewide Amateur Hockey of Florida (SAHOF) Association within the State of Florida.
The age classifications of a player are his/her age as of midnight December 31 prior to or during the current playing season. USA Hockey no longer allows girls to play down one age category.
NFHL strongly believes that good grades are of more excellent long-term value than participation in youth sports. Parents should monitor their child’s academic performance. If a player is having academic difficulty, parents are encouraged to discuss it with the Head Coach and appropriately address the situation.
Player classification is determined by an age cut-off established by USA Hockey:
Everyone wants his or her child to have the best possible hockey experience. Parents must get involved to help make this happen. NFHL is an all-volunteer organization. A small group of volunteers cannot undertake many necessary tasks. Opportunities will arise throughout the season that needs volunteer support. To help improve our league and continue to grow, please consider volunteering some of your time.
Following are examples of opportunities to volunteer within NFHL (but not limited to):
Board of Directors
Locker Room Monitor/attendant
Please remember that if you are asked to help, another parent volunteer does the asking. Please do what you can and if the timing is not correct, offer your assistance for another time. We need everyone’s help!
Player registration fees currently only cover the basic operating costs of NFHL programs.
NFHL depends on sponsorships and gifts from businesses and individual community members to grow and fully fund its program’s goals. Each registered player is required to participate in 1 of the three available fundraising options per hockey season.
The three options are:
- sign up a sponsor for the league
- volunteer a certain number of hours
- pay for a “buyout.”
All funds collected through fundraising will be submitted to the league treasurer for accountability and tax-exempt status.
NFHL is a 501(c) (3) tax-exempt charitable organization and has also been granted sales tax exemption by the State of Florida (Tax ID Number 59-3464755).
CONTRIBUTIONS TO NFHL ARE TAX DEDUCTIBLE!
We are open to ideas and suggestions for fundraising efforts! Join the Fundraising Committee!
Team / Individual Photographs
NFHL will coordinate for a professional photographer early in the season determined upon the Bay Center Ice Schedule. This service is optional, but if parents elect to purchase photos, all agreements or problems are between you and the photographer. The league is not responsible, nor will they get involved to help settle problems.
Teams’ Level of Play
USA Hockey and NFHL determine age groups' level of play.
- House Tournament Team
House age groups are for players who want to develop their skills but cannot commit to several tournaments and the financial extras it brings. Priorities are sportsmanship, skill development, team play through scrimmages, and hockey strategy.
The league will attempt to field a house tournament team in each age division, but this is only feasible based on sufficient enrollment numbers. House tournament teams will be composed of players of comparable skills. House tournament teams are for inexperienced players and experienced players who want to develop their skills in a less competitive environment. The season runs from October to March. Priorities are sportsmanship, skill development, team play, and hockey strategy.
Competitive (Travel) teams require a higher skill level and a more significant commitment of time, dedication, and money. Practices can be high-tempo, and games are more contested. Priorities for travel teams are sportsmanship, team play, hockey strategy, and competitive play. All participants are expected to participate in practices and games unless prior approval has been issued. Coaches will determine if a player is ready to play at the travel level and based on the number of players interested in travel hockey, a try-out may be necessary. Evaluations for Travel teams are typically held in March for the following season. Check with your division’s coach or team manager for questions regarding travel teams.
Player Selection Process
CURRENTLY, NFHL DOES NOT HAVE THE RESOURCES OR PLAYERS TO FIELD MULTIPLE TRAVEL TEAMS WITHIN DIVISIONS. AS OUR LEAGUE CONTINUES TO GROW AND WE REACH THIS ABILITY, IT WILL BECOME NECESSARY TO ESTABLISH A PLAYER SELECTION PROCESS. THE COMMENTS BELOW ARE INCLUDED IN THIS EDITION OF THE HANDBOOK ONLY FOR FUTURE REFERENCE.
NFHL conducted a player selection (try-out) at the end of the previous season (March) to determine where to place players on travel teams. Coaches will look at the player’s skill, level of play, and confidence and put them on an appropriate level team. Tryouts can be incredibly stressful for both players and parents if they take the approach that a top-level team is the best place for every player. We are fully aware that this approach is popular in both high-level sports and business. Still, in developing youth athletes starting as young as four or five, this approach must be balanced with what is best for the player’s development, both physical and emotional.
Recommendations to Parents:
- Parents should refrain from watching tryouts. This will help reduce the temptation to make comparisons with the players or second-guess the coaches.
- Parents should encourage players to try their best but reinforce the notion that the purpose of try-outs is to place them on an appropriate team and that no matter where they end up, it will be a great place, where they will have a great time.
- Parents should remind players and themselves that rating a person’s hockey ability has nothing to do with their rating as a person.
- Parents should never give their players excuses that blame other people for their child not making a particular team. This is counterproductive to the program as well as to the child’s character development.
Keeping all of the above in mind, NFHL has developed a fair and measurable process that helps select players for the appropriate teams.
The player selection committee consists of the Coach-In-Chief and team coaches (and/or experienced individuals). Selection is based on all of the following:
- Skating Skills
- Puck Handling Skills Hockey/Game Knowledge Athletic Ability
- Coach Ability Player Commitment
- Player Attitude and/or Behavior
NFHL DOES NOT ALLOW “MOVE UP” TO AN OLDER AGE LEVEL ABOVE THOSE SET BY USA HOCKEY.
There can be negative consequences for the player as their social and emotional development may not be ready for older teammates even when their physical development may encourage a parent to seek the move. Children need to have opportunities to be leaders and mentors.
Tournament play may require younger players to participate with an older team to supplement the roster due to low participation from registered players.
League registration is completely done online. Per USA Hockey, no child can be on the ice unless the child is registered with USA Hockey per insurance regulations.
Payment Plans will be arranged by Treasurer.
Players whose registration fees are not paid in full by the payment plan due date will not participate in NFHL activities. Registration will dictate teams’ composition, and we would like to make those determinations by October 1 of each year.
NOTE: IN ADDITION TO LEAGUE REGISTRATION, ALL PLAYERS WILL NEED TO REGISTER ONLINE WITH USA HOCKEY. FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS TO REGISTER AS A PLAYER. PRINT THE CONFIRMATION LETTER AND EMAIL IT TO THE REGISTRAR.
NFHL DOES NOT HAVE SUFFICIENT FUNDS TO OFFER ANY SCHOLARSHIPS AT THIS TIME.
NFHL’s goals include broad participation and reasonable registration fees. In the future, a limited number of partial scholarships may be available. Scholarships are granted strictly based on need, and skill level is not a consideration. Besides providing necessary financial information (copy of most current tax year) and family information, a parent’s statement of “why my child should receive a scholarship” must accompany the request. This information remains confidential.
For more information, please contact a board member.
The general rule is that NFHL does not offer a refund of league fees. However, sometimes circumstances exist that would warrant a partial refund. Following are some possible situations where the board would consider a refund and a refund schedule:
Players must withdraw due to parents are required to move to another city (more than 60 miles) because of their job (a.k.a. the military clause).
The player withdraws due to a severe injury, which prevents him/her from participating.
Withdrawal prior to October 1st - Full Refund (fewer admin costs)
Withdrawal prior to November 1st - Maximum of 75% of the registration fee
Withdrawal prior to December 1st - Maximum of 50% of the registration fee
**No refunds will be issued after December 1st.
Payment of the registration fee is your commitment to the program.
Players are covered by USA Hockey insurance while participating in NFHL activities once registration has been paid in full. The insurance policy is effective from September 1 through August 31 of each year. There are several exclusions, including travel to and from practices, fighting, intentional acts, players’ personal property, etc. To obtain more information, please refer to the USA Hockey website.
It is necessary for the protection and safety of the skaters that they have properly fitted equipment. Players will not be allowed to participate in any on-ice activities without wearing the necessary protective equipment. For information on hockey equipment or help with proper fitting, please contact your child’s coach, manager, or any member of the Board of Directors.
REQUIRED EQUIPMENT FOR ALL LEVELS
- HECC Approved Helmet with an approved full-face mask
- Mouthguard- attached Supporter with a cup (Males)
- Elbow pads
- Shin pads
- Shoulder pads
- Hockey gloves
- Hockey skates
- Hockey stick
- Throat protector (Neck Guard)
- Hockey socks
- Hockey Pants
- A garter belt (to hold socks up)
Use of the rink and the locker rooms is a privilege, not a right. The Pensacola Bay Center may restrict the use of locker rooms. Before a practice or game, players should arrive at the rink to dress at a time designated by individual coaches. NFHL will not tolerate excessive noise, roughhousing, physical abuse of locker rooms, inappropriate language, or other displays of poor judgment. If the Bay Center’s Manager-on-Duty becomes involved in any locker room issues, the offending team’s locker room privileges may be suspended. It is the team’s responsibility to clean locker rooms after use and leave them in an orderly fashion. The offending team, or individual, if known, will be held financially responsible for any damage they may cause to a locker room.
Team coaches, managers, and parents will work together to provide adult supervision in the locker room. Players will not be allowed to ball/puck handle in the locker rooms (home/away). Players who are disruptive in the locker rooms will be benched for a period determined by the head coach. Players who continue to misbehave will be required to dress at home/hotel.
A Parent of the Mite (8U) Division and below will be allowed in the locker rooms to help dress their children and tie their skates. Players at the Squirt (10U) level and older should tie their own skates. Thus, their parents will not be allowed in the locker room without being Safesport certified. Locker Room monitors will be assigned per the coach during practice time. ALL locker room monitors MUST register as a Volunteer, submit a background check and be SafeSport Certified. Parents will not be allowed in or near the Zamboni area during practices for safety reasons outlined by the Bay Center in our Contract..
Teams with males and females on their team should ensure that all players are dressed on time and appropriately so that all players can attend team meetings if held in a locker room without embarrassment or inconvenience. Accommodations will be made for female players to get dressed in separate facilities.
Parents need to respect the time before and after a practice/game for the coaches to talk with the team in private to prepare or evaluate a practice/game.
Game and Practice Cancellations
Cancellations occasionally do occur and can occur at the last minute from the Bay Center. The NFHL board will do its best to communicate any cancellations at least two hours before, when possible, the scheduled activity. This information will be posted on the league’s website, by email, or age group messaging app.
NFHL’s coaches are all unpaid volunteers.
- Coaching certification (Level I, II, III, IV, or V)
- Hockey knowledge and skills Coaching experience
- Ability to work effectively with children and other NFHL volunteers Maturity and responsibility
- Ability to put in the time and effort required throughout the season Ability to create a positive experience for the team
- Passed criminal background check
The Coach-in-Chief will interview candidates and select the most qualified coaches from the applicant group. Selection is at the discretion of the Coach-in-Chief. Individuals interested in coaching should contact the Coach-in-Chief. Coaches are required to sign a Coaches Code of Conduct, setting forth coaching performance standards. A background check & Safesport will be necessary before any interaction with the kids.
The league allows for Student Coaching to supplement the head coach on an as-needed basis. The criteria for student coaching are located in the Student Pages, under the Coaches Corner section on the website. Student coaches must get approval from the Coach-In-Chief before helping on the ice.
Team Rules and Meetings
Each Head Coach will establish individual team rules. Individual team rules must be in writing and submitted to the Coach-in-Chief for prior review and approval. Before the first game of the season, Head Coaches will hold a team meeting with players and parents to discuss and explain team rules. Coaches are encouraged to have team meetings with players and parents regularly throughout the season to provide information, resolve concerns and answer questions. Team rules may vary from team to team, and it is the responsibility of the team manager/head coach to get the information to the parents.
At the Squirt level and above, each Head Coach may choose a captain and an assistant captain. All team captains are expected to demonstrate leadership by example. At the Bantam and Midget levels, Head Coaches may request captains to play a more active leadership role. Head Coaches should establish realistic goals and meet with team captains to explain their expectations.
Coaches have the primary responsibility for ensuring players meet their obligations to their teammates and NFHL. Coaches expect their players to exceed the minimum standards of behavior. For example, a player should avoid being disruptive or inattentive during practice, making negative comments, complaining or whining, blaming goals or losses on individual teammates, or otherwise not being a team player.
NFHL expects coaches to evaluate and make judgments regarding a player’s behavior, and when necessary, to take corrective action. If players or parents wish to discuss the reasons for a coach’s decision, they should first discuss them with the coach.
Number of Games and Practices
The League desires that each team have at least two ice touches per week, either full or half-ice, based on several factors for the entire season. However, we purchase the ice from the Pensacola Bay Center, which periodically schedules other uses for the building. NFHL determines the total number of ice touches available to a division and will work with team coaches to determine precisely how and when those touches will be used. Special considerations can sometimes be made to accommodate coaching requests. NFHL defines an ice touch as one hour of scheduled ice time. Coaches will determine if that hour is used as a practice or a recreation game/scrimmage. Typically, a 15-minute interval is scheduled between touches to resurface the ice. Per the contract the Pensacola Bay Center issues to the NFHL, the Pensacola Bay Center reserves the right to adjust the ice schedule at its discretion.
Five Minute Rule
NFHL promotes equal playing time for all players. Travel team coaches may elect to utilize the five-minute rule during the third period of a close game. This rule generally uses experienced players more during the last five minutes of play. Any questions or concerns should be directed to individual coaches.
Hockey is a team sport and players should attend as many practices as possible. At the Head Coach’s discretion, failure to attend one or more practices during the week prior to any game may affect a player’s game participation. Players must arrive at the rink in time to dress, attend team meetings and be on the ice on time. Each Head Coach will establish team rules regarding tardiness and absences.
If a child is involved with another sport and it overlaps with hockey, a discussion with the coach is recommended so that both parties are aware of commitment requirements.
Travel Hockey Teams
NFHL is a recreational / house-level league program. Occasionally within divisions, there may be enough players with a desire to develop a travel team. The Board of Directors will work with the Statewide Amateur Hockey of Florida Association (SAHOF) and the Southern Youth Hockey Travel League (SYTHL) to help secure travel team opportunities for any Jr. Ice Flyer Travel Team.
IT IS IMPORTANT TO UNDERSTAND TRAVEL HOCKEY IS AN ADDITIONAL COST TO THE PLAYER AND IS NOT COVERED BY BASIC LEAGUE FEES.
Code of Conduct
All players, parents, coaches, and managers will sign an NFHL Code of Conduct at the time of registration agreeing to abide by certain standards of conduct based on USA Hockey, SAHOF, and NFHL guidelines. The Code of Conduct outlines, in general terms, a minimum standard of behavior. Players, parents, coaches, and managers are expected to have an understanding of their obligations. If they are unsure, they should discuss any questions with their coach or their team manager. Failure to conform to the Code of Conduct standards will be a cause for action by the Discipline Committee.
Zero Tolerance Policy
To make ice hockey a more desirable and rewarding experience for all participants, USA Hockey has instructed officials to adhere to specific points of emphasis relating to sportsmanship. This campaign is designed to require all players, coaches, officials, parents/spectators, and team officials and administrators to maintain a sportsmanlike and educational atmosphere before, during, and after all USA Hockey-sanctioned games.
Examples of unsportsmanlike behavior:
- Openly disputes or argues any decision by an official
- Uses obscene or inappropriate language or gestures at any time Visually demonstrates any sign of dissatisfaction with an official’s call Taunting of players, coaches, officials, or spectators.
- Throwing objects in the viewing areas, player’s area, or on the ice surface.
USA Hockey’s Zero Tolerance Policy must be adhered to at all times. Officials have the right, with no warning, to require the removal of the offending person, assess penalties during a game to the team representing the offending person, and run the clock if it is not an advantage to that team. For more details, see the USA Hockey website. A copy of the Zero Tolerance Policy is included at the end of this handbook.
Conduct Subject to Discipline
Examples of words or actions that will constitute a violation of the Code of Conduct include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Making physical contact with any player, coach official, league representative, arena personnel, or spectator
- Taunting or threatening any player, coach, official, league representative, arena personnel, or spectator
- Going into the locker/dressing room of an opposing team or obstructing their access to or exit from said room or arena
- Going into the official’s locker/dressing room or obstructing their access to or exit from said room or arena
- Using inappropriate, profane, and/or vulgar language or mannerisms Entering the ice surface without approval.
- Throwing any object onto the ice surface, into the player area(s), or at another individual
- Pounding or climbing on the glass
- Use of alcohol, tobacco, and controlled or illegal substances in the ice arena
- Defacing or damaging property belonging to any individual, team, association, or arena.
- Being involved in any activity that would warrant the summoning of law enforcement.
- Inciting any person(s) to become involved in any of the above-listed behaviors
- Any other conduct that is not in compliance with the Code of Conduct of NFHL and USA Hockey
- NO youth on adult ice times or adults on youth ice. No one under 18 will be allowed to skate with adults. The only Exceptions are Coaches and Referees
Conflicts and disciplinary issues are to be handled by the Disciplinary Committee. Per the bylaws, this committee comprises the Board of Directors. When possible, the committee’s goal is to have problems and disciplinary situations resolved within 72 hours.
24 Hour Rule
Coaches should not discuss a game, a game incident, or a situation during the game that has provoked an adverse emotional response or created a hostile situation until at least 24 hours after the fact. A member is not to approach a coach to discuss a game, a game incident, or a problem that occurred during the game that has provoked an adverse emotional response or a hostile situation until at least 24 hours after the fact. Physical or sexual indiscretion or any situation that compromises the children’s immediate safety are exemptions to the 24-hour rule.
Protocol for Issuing Formal Complaints
NFHL recognizes that issues may arise throughout a season that needs to be addressed by the Board of Directors. Please remember that we are all adults and professionals. The Board should not address petty grievances. Should a formal complaint need to be issued, the following steps are required:
PHONE CALLS WILL NOT BE AN ACCEPTABLE MEANS OF ISSUING A COMPLAINT. NO COMPLAINT MAY BE ADDRESSED BEFORE A 24 HOUR
PERIOD (an exception being physical or sexual indiscretion or any situation that compromises the immediate safety of the children)
An appointment may be scheduled after the 24-hour cooling-off period; however, no complaint will be addressed during this time.
An appointment must be scheduled with the. The appointment can be scheduled by contacting the President of the Board of Directors directly. This will be to schedule a meeting, not to address a concern.
The Parent/Coach must send a written letter of concern before the meeting with the President (by email is acceptable). The letter must describe, in detail, the problems or actions that took place. The Parent/Coach and the President must sign the letter.
An investigation of the complaint will follow the meeting. All parties will be notified of the decision within 72 hours. Should a situation require more time to investigate thoroughly, the parties involved will be notified that an extension is needed to complete the investigation.
The league secretary will keep all letters, copies of emails, or other correspondences on file for two years.