NHL Getting Tough On Penalties

Steve Murray
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Wednesday - October 05, 2011
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Calgary Flames left wing Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond mixes it up with Vancouver Canucks’ Matt Clackson (32) after Leblond made an illegal hit on Clackson. Leblond was later suspended by Shanahan.

Feel the rhythm, feel the rhyme, get on up, it’s hockey time!

My apologies for referencing a basically cheesy movie with the great game of hockey, but it’s all I could think of.

Or to be more correct, the sentence represents the length of time I was willing to spend on an opening. As they say, close enough for government work. Let’s get it on!

That’s leadership.

Accountability has never been easy to find in professional sports. Excuses abound, and most screwups are referenced with either a lawyer-written nonadmittal apology from players or politically correct non-answers from management.

That’s why it’s refreshing to hear Brendan Shanahan, the NHL’s vice president, player safety and hockey operations, and head of player punishment the latter is not an official title but an accurate description make it clear that, to steal a phrase from Harry Truman, the buck stops with him.

Give the NHL and Shanahan credit. Instead of burying decisions behind a wall of secrecy, the league has created an authoritative position and manned it with someone who is not afraid to act or speak honestly about why he makes decisions. The NHL produced a video explaining rule changes and paired the recently retired winger with NHLPA’s

Mathieu Schneider. The partnership makes sense beyond the duo being former Red Wings teammates. The NHL needed to keep the lines of communication open between players and owners, and did so by pairing Schneider and Shanahan together. The plan worked. The video is clear, represents both sides and leaves no question about who is in charge.

Shanahan showed no preferential treatment slapping Red Wings’ defenseman Brendan Smith with a five game suspension and $23,648.65 in lost salary for hitting Blackhawks’ forward Ben Smith in the head with his shoulder. Smith’s suspension was the eighth of the NHL preseason. The longest was on Philadelphia’s Jody Shelley, who got a 10-day vacation for his boarding of Toronto’s Darryl Boyce. The league has posted videos on its website that shows the plays in question, the rule the new VP is interpreting, his decision and how it was made. That’s pretty cut and dried.

Shanahan can get away with such pronouncements because he has credibility and respect. After 22 seasons in the NHL, 1,524 games, 1,354 points and 2,489 penalty minutes, he understands the difference between necessary aggression and dangerous behavior.

Plus, by having a former player make such decisions, the league removes past complaints of businessmen making rulings on a game they may have never played.

Can’t say that about Shanny.

Have you seen Syd?

Penguins captain Sydney Crosby doesn’t seem any closer to playing than he was in January when he suffered the second of two concussions. Crosby has taken part in team skatearounds but hasn’t yet been cleared to play. Signs point to an eventual return, but when and at what capacity is anyone’s guess.

League officials don’t need to read Brett Hart’s biography to understand how dangerous and debilitating head injuries can be. Eric Lindros and Pat LaFontaine had their careers cut short by concussions, and who would be surprised if the recent deaths of Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien and Wade Belak were, at least in some way, related to the shots they had taken in their career?

So where does that leave Pittsburgh?

The Pens still have talent with defender Kris Letang, center Tyler Kennedy, a hopefully rejuvenated Evgeni Malkin and goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, but any hope of making a run at the Stanley Cup rests with Crosby and his stillevolving game.

What in the name of Guy Lafleur was I thinking?

One of the best things about setting up your own fantasy hockey league is you get to pick names and passwords that tend to promote your own interests while taking slight jabs at your opponents.

It’s all about the trashtalking anyway. But after a second-place finish and more Meeha League (don’t ask me what the heck that means) titles than I can count, I got cocky and let a French Canadian into the group.

Sacré bleu!

He probably has Scotty Bowman on speed dial and knows what a fleur-de lys is!

I know he knows what poutine is, but that’s not much help unless he wines and dines the entire league with the starchy, gooey and cheesy comfort food until we all go into cardiac arrest.

But would Jean Guy do such a thing? No sense taking a chance.

Vive le Quebec!

That is, until the Canadiens enter hockey’s holy city. And no! I don’t mean Toronto!

This thing is going to kill me.

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