I have on more than one occasion discussed how poorly the job of supplemental discipline and player safety was handled by former Head-honcho Colin Campbell. When the NHL FINALLY decided to move a different direction I was curious about the selection of Brendan Shanahan, but am cautiously quite optimistic that they have made a very good choice.
The first bit of evidence that things were going to be handled more... well, grown-up from now on was the more even handed and thoughtful language that Shanahan used immediately upon getting the job (which you can juxtapose against Campbells propensity to go on HNC and hatchet players like some talk radio jock). He was careful not to throw Campbell under the bus, but he also made it clear that he was going to go about the job much differently, and be much more aggressive in protecting the players.
There have been other subtle clues along the way that make me optimistic, but what really has me excited is the ad I saw on the Washington Times website when I was following one of the morning Clips link.
The ad, suprisingly, was not an add at all, but rather a promotional video by Brendan Shanahan and Mathieu Schneider outlining how they plan to update the rules on hits to the head and boarding.
Check it out:
Okay, ignore the wooden delivery. What you should focus on is that there was a lot of thought that went into this video, in a few different ways.
- Shanahan/Schneider has convinced the NHL to PAY MONEY to show that they are serious about player safety. They could have released this for free on their own site, but they decided to publicly say "We believe this is important! And we are willing to put some money behind it".
- This is a level of transparency that I have not seen before (unless they've done these before and I missed them), Shanny et al have clearly made the case to the hockey world that they want to be AS EXPLICIT AS POSSIBLE about how penalties should be called, and what they will judge supplemental discipline on.
- They have invested in the equipment necessary to watch ALL games for possible supplemental discipline. THAT has been a long time coming.
- Notice the lengths at which they go to explain how they want to keep the NHL a physical and exciting game, while being more safe.
Similarly, I'm impressed with the rule changes themselves. I felt the language is clear and thoughtful. I personally like that they removed the lateral or blind-side language and made players responsible for not hitting directly to the head from any direction. I also like the addition of the language that exempts a player who has every intention of making a clean hit, but ends up making a dangerous play thanks to the opposing player putting himself in a vulnerable position at the last minute.
In my mind, so-far-so-good. The real test of course will be when they have to start applying supplemental discipline to all different range of infractions, in all different situations, to all different types of players. I wish them the best, the health our all of our favorite players, as well as the league as a whole, depend upon them.