It hasn’t taken long for Brendan Shanahan to make his presence felt as the NHL’s new disciplinarian, replacing the much maligned Colin Campbell. Only a week into the preseason, Shanahan has doled out two suspensions, the first to Calgary’s Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond and the second to Philadelphia’s Jody Shelley, both of which were for boarding violations. Given the NHL’s new rules and hard-line stance on head shots and boarding, these suspensions were slamdunks for Shanny.
What’s especially nice is that the NHL has created short videos of Shanahan explaining what happened (with video replays), why it’s illegal, the discipline taken on the player, and some of the deciding factors in the decision. It’s great for the fans to be able to get a condensed and to the point recap of the situation. And with Shanahan himself in the video, it puts some accountability and ownership on the NHL for the disciplinary decisions that they make…or at least it makes it appear that it does.
Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond’s hit earned him a seat for 5 games, one of which will be a regular season game. It was a classic boarding penalty: the player he hit had his backed turned towards him the entire time and made no effort to avoid contact. It was dangerous, stupid, and avoidable, which is exactly the type of hit the NHL wants to eliminate from the game.
Shelley’s hit is about as easy a call as you’re going to get. The Maple Leafs’ Boyce had his back to him the entire time and made no sudden movements whatsoever that would have transitioned him into a compromised position. Shelley nailed him anyway. It wasn’t the most violent of boards that you’ll see (I actually think that Leblond’s hit was more violent), but there is not one reason that I can think of why Shelley would lay a shoulder into Boyce the way he did. Not one. It was almost as though Shelley were screaming to the NHL “Suspend me!!!” And many Flyers fans were actually hoping that they’d suspend Shelley for the entire year (or maybe they’d get lucky and give him a lifetime ban), but they’ll have to be satisfied with 10 games (5 in preseason and 5 in the regular season). For the Flyers, Shelley’s overpaid for what he brings to the table: fighting. He’s a good fighter, but he’s not worth the roster spot if that’s all he can do. And if he’s going to be pulling garbage like this throughout the year, putting his team down a man for 5 minutes in the middle of the game will make him unaffordable in terms of wins and losses.
Credit Shanahan and the NHL for the tough punishments and 5 and 10 games are a lot compared to the suspensions issued in the past. They took past suspensions into account for both players and also took Boyce’s injury into account for Shelley’s hit. Remembering the past violations is immensely important, but I don’t like the idea of using injury to judge a dirtiness of a play. An illegal hit is an illegal hit regardless of whether a player gets hurt or not. Intent is what’s most important, as well as carelessness. If a player tries to deliver a knockout blow to the head of an opponent and misses, does not he not deserve more of a suspension than a player who injures an opponent on a borderline hit?
Unfortunately for my tastes, the injury factor is likely going to be factored in forever. I’m willing to compromise on that provided that the NHL actually starts showing some consistency in the way they deal with hits. They’ve taken “tough” stances before, but managed to drop the ball pretty quickly once the season started and it was back to business as usual. But they’ve got a fresh chance with Brendan Shanahan running the show. He was one of the most respected players in the league during his playing days, and hopefully he brings that to the front office of the NHL. Shanny getting sucked into the “business as usual” mentality would be a huge shame for the game.
So just like any rookie who comes out of the gate flying, the challenge is this: sustain it.
It’s a real shame that I ever have to write something like this, but what happened last night at the Flyers vs. Red Wings game in London, Ontario was absolutely disgusting. For those who don’t know, during Wayne Simmonds’ shootout attempt, someone from the stands threw a banana on the ice at him. The implication of that action is clear.
Not surprisingly, the NHL community quickly supported Simmonds. Simmonds, despite being only 23 years old, took the incident like a real man:
“I don’t know if it had anything to do with the fact I’m black. I certainly hope not. When you’re black, you kind of expect (racist) things. You learn to deal with it.”
I don’t buy into the politically correct garbage that we’re all fed today. Much of the “sensitivity” and “tolerance” that’s stuff down our throats is nonsense. HOWEVER, there is no way to excuse what this moron who threw the banana did. This was clearly the actions of a bigot, plain and simple.
I don’t really know what else to say about this. Terrible. Just terrible.