Rocket's Red Glare: Brendan Shanahan and the NHL's era of transparency

  • Blog Post by: Michael Rand
  • October 12, 2011 - 11:54 AM

Commenter Rocket writes about the NHL every week because we stubbornly refuse to give it as much love on this blog as we do other sports. It's win-win. Rocket?


A significant part of my youth is dying. And not the good kind of becoming-an-adult/coming of age way that is the central theme to most of the young adult novels that Stu likes to read.

No, what is dying is the NHL of my youth and of earlier generations. Hockey is a beautiful, fluid, dynamic sport full of the kind of joy, excitement, fear, pathos, speed, energy, power, intrigue, danger, and violence that can only be equaled by one of Clarence Swamptown’s nights on the town.
Of course, hockey is also a sport that has generally been played by lunkheads who think this kind of haircut is all right and is run by owners who are capable of alienating two very different, very opposable fan bases.
And that is what used to make it such a beautiful mess to watch. This is a sport that vehemently defends the (not infrequent) times when opposing players decide to openly flout the rules and punch each other in the face. In fact, fans will often give those players a standing ovation. This is a sport that will change the rules of the game right in the middle of the playoffs just because one player is being a [redacted]. This is a game that had Howard Ballard (who really deserves his own post) as a longtime owner. This a game where this guy is a long-time, well respected national commentator.
Someone raided Stu's closet!

Someone raided Stu's closet!

Yes, part of the beauty of hockey is that it is so fundamentally stupid. It is run and played by guys who are probably not going to be kicking down the doors of the local MENSA meeting; or who just might, believing that MENSA was the type of special Swedish training that made Borje Salming and Hakan Loob so great.
And yet, one man is on a mission to change all of that and to destroy the monumentally stupid game with which I grew up. That man is Brendan Shanahan.
Shanahan, of course, was a long time NHL player who was the kind of star who made sportscommissioners drool in their sleep. Although never in the Gretzky/Lemieux/Jagr/Crosby/Ovechkin class, Shanny was nonetheless a tough, well-respected star who never made noise and was amajor cog on a lot of really good teams. A team of 20 Shanahans could have won the Cup on guile, commitment, and rugged good looks alone. He also took a leadership role during the lockout where he gathered some influential people within the game to discuss how to improve the sport.
His stature as a leader and a good guy within the game made him a natural fit for his post-retirement role as the NHL’s Vice President of Hockey and Business Development. And he has been busy since he started the job in December of 2009. He was the innovator behind the All-Star Draft and has looked at all kinds of various tweaks to improve the game, some of which have been recently implemented.
Perhaps more importantly, over the summer he became the new discipline czar. To say that he has already been an improvement over the last, not always consistent guy would be an understatement. Shanahan’s reputation alone gave the league the type of credibility it was sorely lacking. Player safety has become a much bigger concern in hockey (as well asother sports) and Shanahan is handing down suspensions that are consistent with the purpose of eliminating the unnecessary violence in an already physical game.
But in typical Shanahan fashion, he has taken it a step further for the betterment of the game. Shanny has issued a series of videos for each suspension, explaining in clear language with video evidence why he made the choices that he made. He has even made a video for clean hits and good decisions. You may or may not agree with the decisions that Shanahan is making (and some are vehemently disagreeing), but at least you find out why he made them. One of Shanny’s buzzwords since being appointed discipline czar has been “transparency” and it doesn’t get more transparent than this. I can think of no other instance in sports where a league or governing body has done such a phenomenal job of clearly stating how it came to the decision that it did and letting fans, media, players, management, owners, and any other interested party know about it. It is a bold and laudable new way to conduct business.

Unless this monster is stopped, Shanahan may very well completely revolutionize hockey and not only bring it into the 21st century but make it a leader among leagues. If Shanny is allowed to continue with his nefarious plan then the sport that I grew up with will be long gone and a much better version will take its place. For the love of these guys, we must slay this dragon lest I actually find myself proud of thesport I love and not merely resigned to having to defend it and its antics to the more general public.

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