Date Posted: November 2, 2011
Print Edition: October 26, 2011
Brendan Shanahan, NHL darling, is off to a rather auspicious start as discipline distributor for his former league. The secret formulas that dictated suspensions during Colin Campbell’s reign of terror have been banished under Shanahan’s rule. Now, fans see a video explanation for suspensions – and eventually, lack of suspensions. Inarguably, this is a step towards more consistent and fair suspensions across the NHL. However, despite the advances they’re making, there’s still plenty of room for criticisms.
First, let’s look at Shanahan’s actions. In the preseason, he surprised precisely no one with his suspension style – if they sat and thought about it for a second. When he was on the ice himself, he was the type of player who played the game and did his job – no drama, no dirty penalties, no post-game embarrassments. His rulings in his new position as senior vice president of player safety have reflected his game play style: seemingly, he has no tolerance for cheap plays off the ice, either. During the preseason, his suspensions were handed out quickly and with no tolerance for dalliances outside the rulebook. However, as the season has progressed, his strict findings have tapered off. Exhibit A: Nashville captain Shea Weber’s hit on Jannik Hansen in Thursday night’s game. Though Shanahan admits the hit was not ok – “I feel it was an illegal hit” were his exact words – Weber was fined only $2500. Considering the fact that Weber makes $91,463.41 per game, this is a fairly menial amount. Where was the Shanahammer on this hit? Is he losing his touch?
Despite the fact that Shanahan seems to be slipping in his strict style, he remains a poster boy for the changing face of the NHL and the attitude they are taking towards suspensions and fines. Bearing that in mind, consider the Wayne Simmonds- Sean Avery exchange that took place on September 26 in the Flyers/Rangers game. Approximately 3742 cameras (perhaps a slight exaggeration) caught Simmonds referring to Avery with a homophobic slur – an “insult” made all the more scathing considering Avery’s public stance in defence of homosexuality and gay marriage. Despite video evidence, post-game corroboration from both players, and good common sense, the NHL has refused to issue any repercussions for this. Our good friend Colin Campbell has gone on record saying that there isn’t enough evidence available for any repercussions. To be frank, this is horse-pucky. Shanahan was beloved on the ice for a reason, and his enforcer-in-suit role echoed that. Why is the NHL so inconsistent?
Derogatory terms are banned in the rules, just as dangerous hits are. It’s in Section nine of the NHL Rules, 75.2 (i): “Any identifiable player who uses obscene, profane or abusive language or gestures directed at any person” should be punished with a minor penalty. Also bear in mind that the rulebook allows for penalties of a harsher nature to be doled out if the causation dictates it as necessary. An example? Sean Avery’s 2009 suspension for derogatory comments about his ex-girlfriend. If Avery can be suspended for such comments, why is Simmonds immune? Kudos to the NHL for protecting the virtue of women everywhere, but isn’t perpetuating homophobia just as bad?
Shanahan’s early attitude towards player missteps was admirable. It embodied concern for the players, and was a step in creating a league that was safer for players physically and mentally. To him, I say keep up the good work, and don’t slip under criticism. To his compatriots, I say follow his example. Don’t allow hate to fester in the NHL, and be consistent with suspensions. It shouldn’t be necessary to say this – but be more like the NBA. Sorry, Kobe.