The new era of NHL discipline

Brendan Shanahan’s reign as the NHL’s chief disciplinarian, which started earlier this summer when he took over from Colin Campbell, has received positive reactions from many in the hockey community.

As a recently retired player, with over 20 years of NHL experience to his credit, Shanahan would certainly appear to have a solid understanding of the speed of the game and the mechanics required to play at such speeds. He also, presumably, would have a better ability to understand the intent of the players’ actions where Campbell might not have.

Shanahan was quick to make his presence felt around the NHL. With the creation of the new safety committee that includes the likes of Hall Famers Steve Yzerman and Joe Nieuwendyk, Shanahan made it clear that player safety was going to be the number one priority going forward.

His track record of disciplinary action so far has appeared to follow that premise.
During the preseason, Shanahan handed out suspensions to nine players for a total of 60 preseason and regular season games missed. This has caused some in the NHL to question whether or not his actions were a little excessive.

But give credit to Shanahan, as he not only stands behind his decisions but also provides players, fans, and hockey analysts with video evidence to support the logic behind the justice he doles out.

Although the use of the videos has created some consistency in the disciplinary process, it has not prevented him from coming under fire for his decisions.

One recent controversy came during a game between the Boston Bruins and the Buffalo Sabres on Nov. 12. Midway through the first period of the game, Bruins tough guy Milan Lucic collided with Sabre goalie Ryan Miller in Boston’s offensive zone. Lucic claims that he was going for a puck that had skipped just past his reach while on a breakaway.

The Lucic hit stirred up controversy, as there is a prevailing belief in hockey that goalies are untouchable, even when they have left the crease and are playing the puck as Miller was. Shanahan decided, upon further review of the play, that Lucic did not deserve to be suspended for that hit because although he agreed that Lucic “didn’t make a great enough effort to avoid Miller — [ . . . ] he didn’t veer out of the way, which is why he gets a penalty — he also didn’t veer into Miller.”
Clearly, the Sabres’ were disappointed with this outcome. But after watching the video and seeing Lucic look down and not look back up again until almost right before the collision and hearing Shanahan’s explanation, it is hard to argue with his logic.

As controversial as his decisions may seem to some, it is nice to know that there is common sense logic behind them. It’s a refreshing change and bodes well for the league moving forward.