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This article was published 1/6/2011 (3084 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
VANCOUVER — They make a good comedy team. All they have to do now is run hockey operations.
After being introduced as the National Hockey League's new justice minister, relieving Colin Campbell of that chore, Brendan Shanahan said Wednesday: "I think history will show that Colie has been a great innovator for the game of hockey and we all do owe him a great deal of thanks."
Standing next to Shanahan, and looking happier than he has in months, Campbell replied: "You won't be thanking me next year."
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman confirmed before Wednesday's Stanley Cup opener that senior executive vice-president Campbell will no longer oversee supplemental discipline.
Shanahan was named to the new position of senior vice-president for player safety and hockey operations. If you think the title is tough, just wait until Shanahan starts his new job next season.
After 13 years of Campbell's evermore contentious rulings on player discipline, the NHL has a credibility issue when it comes to player safety.
Shanahan, renowned for both his toughness and integrity as a player, seems capable of regaining public respect that was finally exhausted in March when Campbell ruled Boston Bruins defenceman Zdeno Chara deserved no suspension for running Max Pacioretty's head into the turnbuckle in Montreal, seriously injuring the Canadiens forward.
It was around that time when Campbell, blistered with criticism from fans, reporters, sponsors and even some players, approached Bettman and suggested justice should be served by somebody else.
Bettman, who has staunchly defended Campbell through numerous controversies, including an email scandal that embarrassed the league, admitted Wednesday: "There were times this season when the focus on the competition turned into a debate on concussions... and whether supplemental discipline was serving its intended purpose."
Bettman added: "I know this is one aspect of Colie's job that he hates. It could be the most thankless and worst job in hockey, particularly after enduring it for more than a decade. Both Colin and I believe it is time to take a fresh look at the standards that we use. And if we're going to move to harsher discipline, that change needs to send a clear message and we think it would probably be best to do it on a clean slate."
He said Shanahan, who has worked in hockey ops for two seasons, will provide focus and credibility as the NHL better defines what players are allowed to do and the league moves toward stiffer suspensions.
It needs those. More than that, however, it requires a more pragmatic approach to discipline than the league took under Campbell. The NHL's rulings, especially the last two seasons, often seemed designed to withstand technical and legal challenges.
What was absent at times, never more so than in the Chara no-suspension, was common sense. Was a hit reckless or unduly dangerous? Should the player delivering it have realized this?
"I can't promise you how I'm going to view each individual situation," Shanahan said. "It's important to state I do love the physical aspect of hockey and it's a very difficult and fine balance to keep that in the game. I can't promise you what was once a three-(game suspension) is now a seven.
"I don't think that this is going to be easy. Certainly, there's an adherence to the rule book that's fair to the players. I also think that instincts definitely play a part of this."
And Shanahan's instincts should be pretty keen, as he retired from the New York Rangers only two years ago and understands this generation of players.
"In some ways, it's not a job you go into thinking you're going to be getting a lot of pats on the back," he said. "I don't know that every day is going to be an easy one and I certainly was made well aware before I accepted the position — all the hurdles there are. But again, it's just very important to me — too important to me — to pass on the opportunity to have an impact on this great game and the players who play it."
— Postmedia News