You better clean up your act, boys. There’s a new sheriff in town.
Gone are the days of inconsistent, head-scratching disciplinary decisions. Colin Campbell, the NHL’s Director of Hockey Operations, who fans and players alike consider to “have turned the NHL’s . . . discipline system into professional sports’ greatest punch line,” has officially been replaced as the league’s chief disciplinarian.
Brendan Shanahan, the legendary former player and the only one to have over 600 goals and 2,000 penalty minutes in a career, assumed Colin Campbell’s chief disciplinarian role on June 1, 2011. His official title is Vice President of Hockey and Business Development.
While Shanahan’s oversight began during last season’s Stanley Cup Finals, which included giving a four-game suspension to Aaron Rome for his hit on Nathan Horton, Shanahan’s real challenge began this preseason, and man, has he been busy so far.
Since the beginning of the NHL’s preseason on September 19th, Shanahan has already handed out six suspensions. The most recent suspension being given yesterday (September 27th) to Jean-Francois Jacques of the Anaheim Ducks for leaving the Ducks’ bench for the purpose of starting a fight. The other five suspensions involved various hits to the head or checks from behind.
Six suspensions in the first week may seem excessive, but unlike Colin Campbell’s aimless reign, Shanahan has goals (not to be confused with his 658 career goals). He understands that players “want consistency, and they want transparency.” He says he’s giving transparency now, and the “consistency part will only be judged over time.”
Shanahan is the perfect fit for the job. First of all, he played in the NHL for over 20 seasons, and he played as recently as the 2008-2009 season, therefore he has post-lockout experience. Through that playing experience, I am confident that 1) Shanahan understands the modern game of hockey, and 2) he can identify and distinguish between an accidental injury and a purpose to injure.
Even more importantly, through his playing career, Shanahan understands the game of hockey from a dual perspective. “He can see hockey through the eyes of a star player, the guy who gets paid to produce offense on a nightly basis,” and “[h]e also can understand the mindset of a guy who gets his paychecks for delivering physical punishment on the opposition.”
To fans of the NHL, I say rejoice! Under Shanahan’s leadership as chief disciplinarian, there is certainty ahead. No longer will your favorite team’s best player be the recipient of a “dirty” hit without the appropriate repercussion.
Let’s happily waive goodbye to the era where a hit like the following could go unpunished:
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