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The NHL Is A Joke! Player Safety The Biggest Oxymoron!
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The NHL is A Joke! Player Safety the Biggest Oxymoron!

I have nothing against Brendan Shanahan. As a player, he exemplified determination, skill, hard work and integrity. He was a player I enjoyed watching over the years and was one of my favourite Red Wings! He comes across as a genuinely decent person. However, his recent suspension of Chicago defenceman Duncan Keith for what Shanahan characterized as, a ‘reckless’ and ‘dangerous’ hit, on Canucks Daniel Sedin, leaves a lot to be pondered. The decision makes me think he really is in over his head as VP of Player Safety. Shanahan’s ruling is actually what most people consider fair, but fair is not right. The right thing to do would have been to suspend Keith well into the playoffs, for two simple reasons. Keith took out a Hart Trophy winner and an opponent’s leading scorer very near to the start of the playoffs, and, missing playoff games is a far greater punishment to both the player and his team.

In many ways, Shanahan continues to condone the worst that hockey offers by merely shuffling players about with regular season suspensions and fails miserably by not removing the most reprehensible behaviours and attitudes from players that are more than willing to damage another player’s brain. His suspensions, while more lengthy than his incompetent predecessor’s, and his video explanations, while more clear in their reasonings, do not, and will not, stop the impunity that many NHL players have towards one another. The end result is players will continue to be concussed and seriously injured.

The message Shanahan wants to send is that he is setting a new precedent by increasing the number of games a player will be suspended for. Shanahan is now an NHL executive, meaning, he tows the line for a top heavy old boys network that views change as so many nickels on a table. The real change is rule change. Until Shanahan can implement rule changes, the NHL’s biggest headache, pun intended, will continue to be concussions. The NHL doesn’t really want to solve the concussion problem for if they did, they would do away with the bureaucratic quagmire involved in getting NHL rule changes. The NHL's Competition Committee, the NHL Players' Association, as well as the League’s Board of Governors must all be involved in order to approve any formal rule change. Let’s say altogether now, ‘Push that elephant uphill everybody!’

The suspension to Keith was adequate. The 5 games were likely the most Shanahan could dole out given Keith’s lack of bad behavior in the past 7 years. But Shanahan is falling into the same trap that his predecessor Campbell did, he is not pushing for rule changes that will change player attitudes and behaviours. Now this would be a noteworthy precedent!

I take issue with the devolution of respect and disdain that pro hockey players now have for one another. This steady decline in respect is directly correlated to the skyrocketing increase in concussions and if Shanny doesn’t drop a heavier hammer immediately, he stands to lose my respect and, possibly, life-long hockey fans in the process. It is one thing to increase the severity of punishment by exacting longer regular season suspensions but what does this achieve if, as many have posited, any player can remove a significant player from an opponent’s roster and affect that opponent’s Stanley Cup aspirations, and only receive regular season punishment?

Canuck Captain Henrik Sedin suggested that there be a four minute penalty for dangerous hits. His logic is that this will offer a serious setback to winning a game if the offending player puts his team one man down for a four minute power play. Brilliant! I would add that any player, in the final month of the regular season, who is deemed to have committed an intentional headshot, should serve double the number of games to be missed with half of those games served during the playoffs if that player’s team makes the playoffs. If that player’s team is not in the playoffs, then half the missed games should be served at the beginning of the next year’s regular season.

My idea of fantasy hockey has nothing to do with hockey pools. Instead, I see an NHL with players who respect one another, daily local news headlines without sports sections mentioning another hockey player sidelined with a concussion, the nhl news reporting Gary Bettman removed as commissioner, and a date for my city to see the Stanley Cup parade in person!


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