SBD/June 2, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Brendan Shanahan Replacing Colin Campbell As NHL's Chief Disciplinarian

NHL appoints Shanahan head of new department on player safety

NHL Senior Exec VP/Hockey Operations Colin Campbell is relinquishing his duty as the league's "chief disciplinarian" after 13 years to VP/Hockey & Business Development Brendan Shanahan, "who has been appointed as the head of a new department of player safety," according to Eric Duhatschek of the GLOBE & MAIL. Shanahan will "develop rule changes, work with equipment and safety concerns and most importantly, administer supplementary discipline on behalf" of NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. Bettman said that the "revamped process, which will include input from the players’ association, will likely stiffen the penalties for egregious acts of violence in an effort to make the game safer." Bettman also acknowledged that he "hadn’t wanted to make the announcement about Campbell’s future" until after the June NHL BOG meetings, but added that "reports of his deputy’s job change had circulated all day and thus, it didn’t make any sense to keep the decision under wraps any longer." Bettman indicated that Campbell "came to him and suggested the job change himself." Duhatschek noted it "had been a difficult year for Campbell, given the new focus on developing concussion protocols." He also became "embroiled in controversy after a series of e-mails involving his son," Bruins LW Gregory Campbell, indicated that Colin "was asking for favourable rulings from the rest of hockey operations" (THEGLOBEANDMAIL.com, 6/1). Campbell said he recommended the switch "four months ago." He will "remain the head of hockey operations and concentrate on league dealings with team managements." Campbell issued "more than 500 suspensions" since '98 (N.Y. POST, 6/2).

TIME WAS RIGHT FOR A CHANGE: Bettman said, "The thinking on this discipline change is as follows: First, 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. Two, both Colin and I believe that 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." Bettman added, "Having Brendan, who only recently came off the ice after a wonderful career, will give us the adjustment and the focus and the credibility that this change will bring about. ... It would be unfair, inappropriate and simply wrong to suggest that this reorganization in any way is a diminution of Colin or his role" (NYDAILYNEWS.com, 6/1). SPORTING NEWS' Craig Custance writes under the header, "No Debate This Time: Campbell Makes Right Call." Custance: "It was the right move and long overdue. Campbell's job is one that would wear down even the most resilient league official. Doing it for well over a decade is too long. For anyone" (SPORTING NEWS TODAY, 6/2). ESPN.com's Scott Burnside wrote as "much as Campbell needed a break from one of the least pleasant, most demanding jobs in all of sports, in truth, the sport needed a break from him." By the end of his 13-year run, Campbell's "curious take on what constituted supplemental discipline and his persistent inability to articulate the league's vision on supplemental discipline had left the league open to ridicule from the media and a persistent sense of bewilderment on the part of players, coaches and GMs." The challenge for Shanahan "will be to bring order to the Byzantine world of NHL discipline" (ESPN.com, 6/1).

STEPPING OUT OF THE SPOTLIGHT: In L.A., Helene Elliott notes Campbell, who had recused himself from making rulings in the Stanley Cup Final due to his son's involvement, "has been a lightning rod for criticism concerning his often confusing formula for imposing suspensions and fines that seemed to favor superstars." He has "presided over some tumultuous times, including a recent swing toward punishing blindside and deliberate hits to the head" (L.A. TIMES, 6/2). In Boston, Kevin Paul Dupont notes Campbell in recent years "became very inconsistent in meting out discipline, especially concerning head shots." In two "high-profile cases, in which severe concussions were sustained" by Panthers LW David Booth and Bruins C Marc Savard, Campbell "opted not to punish the perpetrators" (BOSTON GLOBE, 6/2). In Boston, Steve Conroy notes Bruins fans "were outraged when Campbell did not suspend" Penguins LW Matt Cooke for his head shot on Savard. That incident "did spark a midseason rule change, however, that outlawed blindside hits to the head" (BOSTON HERALD, 6/2). In Vancouver, Ian MacIntyre writes Shanahan "seems capable of regaining public respect that was finally exhausted in March when Campbell ruled Boston Bruin Zdeno Chara deserved no suspension for running Max Pacioretty's head into the turnbuckle in Montreal" (VANCOUVER SUN, 6/2). In N.Y., Mark Everson notes Campbell's "sometimes pointed disciplinary decisions and opinions have often proven controversial" (N.Y. POST, 6/2).

A NEW SHERIFF IN TOWN
: THE HOCKEY NEWS' Ken Campbell wrote Shanahan is an "all-around good guy who has spent a career building up a great public image, but we’ll have to see how long that lasts and whether or not it will survive his first suspension." What was "most encouraging about the news was the public acknowledgment that the NHL needs to do a better job when it comes to handling on-ice discipline." The league has been "alarmingly slow to react to the increased danger in the game and, for the most part, has been astonishingly limp-wristed when it comes to protecting its assets by imposing harsh, and sometimes unpopular, suspensions." Campbell wrote, "If all of this does indicate a change in the culture of the game, then you’ll hear nothing but applause from this corner." But the NHL is "going to have to show us it means what it says by imposing a stiff suspension the next time a player acts with complete disregard for the safety of his opponent" (THEHOCKEYNEWS.com, 6/1).

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