Kukla's Korner Hockey
by George Malik on 06/01/11 at 10:26 PM ET
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly engaged in their usual “State of the Game” press conference prior to Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final in Vancouver, addressing Brendan Shanahan’s status as the league’s new disciplinarian, the Thrashers’ sale, realignment issues, the Coyotes’ future, the salary cap and the CBA (surprise—Bettman wants to see what the NFL and NBA can weasel out of their players via lockouts before talking to NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr).
Here are two transcripts: the first is of Bettman’s presser and the second will involve Brendan Shanahan and Colin Campbell talking about next season’s change of disciplinary hands. The transcripts are very lengthy, but they’re worth skimming as a good twenty or more journalists will offer their “spin” on these comments, and in all honesty, it’s more expedient to find out what someone actually said instead of digging through the layers of BS and agenda-pushing which usually accompany “expert” opinions during the final.
What you need to know: the cap will go up to $62-63.5 million as revenues have exceeded $3 billion; when realignment happens, the schedule might be revamped; Shanahan will be expected to mete out harsher suspensions, and he’ll also remain involved in player safety (likely with Mathieu Schneider as his NHLPA counterpart); no news is no news regarding the Olympics or World Cup.
Update/edit: If you want the Cliff’s Notes versions, the AP‘s Greg Beacham and the Globe and Mail’s Eric Duhatschek offer shorter summaries; NHL.com’s Dan Rosen did the same for Shanahan and Campbell, as did the CP’s Jim Morris.
Here’s Bettman’s presser…
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: Welcome to Vancouver and the 2011 Stanley Cup final. Congratulations to the Vancouver Canucks and the Boston Bruins on terrific seasons and in particular congratulations to Francesco Aquilini and Jeremy Jacobs and the managements, staffs and players on both teams after the incredible regular-season and playoffs so far. This should be an exciting and fun Stanley Cup final.
We are concluding with this series what on every level has been a terrific season. The level of competition, the competitive balance has been unequaled in any season, and probably in any sport. Our fans have connected to our game in every way possible on every metric setting record numbers on every platform it’s extremely gratifying. We know the importance of how we connect with our fans. You have the numbers. If you need them again, our folks in PR will be happy to give them to you.
When we came back from the work stoppage, we were projecting revenues for the return-to-play season of around $2 billion. We said if we could get to $3 billion by the last year of the basic term, which is the 2010/11 season, the growth rate would have been great. It’s too early to tell with exact precision, but if we’re not exactly at $3 billion, we’re certainly within chipping distance of it.
We continue to develop a relationship with the Players’ Association with Donald Fehr, who is here today. The good news, from my standpoint, is that it’s too early to focus on Collective Bargaining, particularly since the other sports leagues have to go first. When Don and the union are ready to go, our process will begin.
The strength of our game on the business side could be best illustrated by our reaching the largest sponsorship deal in our history the Miller-Coors-Molson deal and the largest, most comprehensive deal in our history with NBC Universal Comcast.
However, with all of these positive developments, we never lose sight of the issues. From a franchise standpoint, while we’ve never been stronger in both Canada and the United States, we did have to do something that we hadn’t done in 14 years, and that is deal with a relocation. We mourn the loss of Atlanta, but we celebrate our return to Winnipeg, and we are excited about our future there.
I know this was extensively covered yesterday, so I will spare everyone a recap. But it is worth noting that the deal was only made yesterday, and that’s why it was announced when it was. I’m glad, however, we were able to do it before the start of the Final. Frankly, it stops all the speculation that we had been seeing for weeks. And, quite frankly, if it hadn’t gotten done yesterday, there’s a good chance it might not have gotten done at all.
With regard to the game, there were occasions this season when the focus on the competition turned into a debate about concussions, about hits involving players’ heads and whether supplemental discipline was serving its intended purpose as a deterrent to actions that we’d prefer not to see on the ice.
We all agreed at the General Managers’ meeting in March that we needed to take a look at the way we define and discipline charging and boarding infractions. As you recall, I empaneled a committee of Brendan Shanahan, Steve Yzerman, Rob Blake, and Joe Nieuwendyk to undertake that examination, and to also consider how we might broaden Rule 48, which prohibits blindside and lateral hits where the head is targeted or is the principal place of contact.
The committee’s work in that regard continues and the members hope to be in a position to report to the general managers at their meeting next week, then to the Competition Committee, then to the Board on June 21st.
In addition to even better address player safety, an area in which we have consistently had a leadership role, particularly as it relates to concussions, I am creating effective after this season a new Department of Player Safety which will be headed by Senior Vice President of Player Safety and Hockey Operations, Brendan Shanahan.
In this revised role, Brendan will be responsible for developing rules related to better protecting our players without changing the fundamental nature of our game, dealing with equipment and safety issues related to equipment, and pursuant to a request made by Colin Campbell, Brendan will administer commissioner supplemental discipline.
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. 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.
Three, we are planning a technology upgrade in video replay. We are looking at arena conditions and at other rules to keep the game open, fast and skillful. We need to spend even more time focused on officiating, and in light of E.J. McGuire passing, there is a need to focus more attention on Central Scouting.
Clearly, those elements are more than an all-encompassing job. Colie and I decided if he sheds commissioner supplemental discipline, he can spend more time on these other vitally important issues.
It would be unfair, inappropriate and simply wrong to suggest that this reorganization in any way is a diminution of Colin or his role. The game is being played at the high level that it is because of the rule changes Colie put together and implemented. While many people contributed to the new game, it is Colin who put it together and made it work. I don’t think anybody should lose sight of that.
By the same token, having someone of Brendan’s caliber focusing his and his department’s full-time energy, efforts and attention on player safety demonstrates our ongoing commitment to the safety of our players and our game.
Again, welcome to the Final. Thank you for joining us. I am happy to take questions.
QUESTION: Gary, you guys developed something called a concussion protocol at the recent GM meeting. Yet in the playoffs we’ve seen where it waivers in terms of is the player concussed, does he go to the quiet room, does he come back. Is there a way for you guys to have an actual protocol with independent people making these calls?
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: Well, I’m not sure of your characterization of what goes on. I think the people who are making these decisions are professionals from a medical standpoint, the physicians, the trainers and the like.
It is a work in process. We’re trying to implement it in a way that makes common sense. I know lots of people are suggesting we should just be meting out fines. We’re thinking and believing that the best way to do this is work the process through with education and getting everybody to buy in to do the right things.
For the most part we’ve been happy with the protocol’s effectiveness and how it has been used. But it is something that we’re working into the system. We think it will improve over time.
QUESTION: Gary, in terms of reassigning Colie’s responsibilities, was there a single tipping point in this decision or is this something that gradually evolved because of the complexities of what you talked about?
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: I think the single tipping point was Colie coming to me and saying he thought this would be a good idea in light of all the things we discussed. We talked about it. I thought about it. I thought about, in part, how long he’s been doing that element, what a thankless job it is. I say that now with Brendan in the room because I was kind of painting a slightly different picture for him as I was trying to persuade him to do this.
But there was no tipping point. The tipping point may have been 13 years, I think it is, of supplemental discipline. At some point you deserve to have your sentence commuted.
QUESTION: When did you do this?
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: This is something we’ve been discussing probably for at least a couple of months.
Let me add one other thing. I was hoping to discuss this with the Board on June 21st before we announced it. But somehow this era of digital technology put it in play. I thought it would be better to address it to end the speculation. We just came off a couple of months of speculation on another topic. I figured this one I needed to deal with directly.
My preference was not to have announced it today, but you deal with what you are dealt.
QUESTION: Can you update where things stand for realignment in lieu of Winnipeg’s reentry, and also the latest on Phoenix?
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: With respect to Winnipeg’s re-entry, obviously there is a process under the Constitution and Bylaws with respect to ownership transfers and relocation that needs to be complied with. That’s on the agenda, will be on the agenda, for the June 21st Board meeting.
In order to do a schedule for next season, it’s not possible to do realignment right now. Winnipeg, despite its geographic peculiarities relative to the Southeast Division of the Eastern Conference, will be playing in that division and in that conference, with an assurance that for the following season they will be in the west.
We have a number of clubs that would like to address specific issues on realignment. All those clubs need an opportunity to be heard. That’s a process we’ll go through the first half of next season, looking at the issues that clubs want to raise, looking at various possibilities, and trying to figure out what will make the most sense moving forward.
If I had to guess anything, and this is purely speculation, as much as I hate to do that, because ultimately it’s a Board decision, I think we’ll wind up moving towards a slightly more balanced schedule to accommodate the variety of issues I’ve heard so far from the clubs.
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: Phoenix, as I think you all know, because it’s gotten a ton of attention, the City of Glendale stepped up and said they want the team to stay another year while they try to complete the sales process with us and will be funding the losses. Any suggestion that the League is funding this club or carrying the burden is not true. Last season the City of Glendale did it. This coming season the City of Glendale will do it, but hopefully not. Hopefully the club will be sold in due course, and there will be a new owner in there to start turning things around.
Again, we’ve gotten a number of questions about why this process in Phoenix and why the other process in Atlanta. Atlanta, not unlike Winnipeg in ‘96, found itself in a situation where nobody wanted to own a club in that market anymore. That’s been for me the trigger point on having to deal with a relocation.
With respect to Phoenix, you have a city in Glendale that built the building and has invested in it and wanting the club to stay there. As long as they’re prepared to carry the burden of doing this while we try to effectuate a solution, there’s no reason to move.
QUESTION: Gary, Brendan’s new duties take effect next season, is that correct?
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: The act of administering supplemental discipline will not be for this round of the playoffs, it will be for next season. He has a lot of work to do getting ready for next season, and his ongoing work with the Blue Ribbon Committee and dealing with issues from a safety standpoint to get us ready for next season start immediately.
QUESTION: You alluded to harsher penalties. Is that your expectation, that we will see more severe supplemental discipline than maybe we’ve seen in the past?
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: That is my hope and expectation. That is something that we want to discuss more fully with the Players’ Association.
But from my standpoint, Colie’s standpoint and Brendan’s standpoint, if there’s certain conduct that we want to see out of the game, then we’ve got to make sure we do what’s necessary.
I try to view this, it’s one of the reasons I’m taking this step in creating a department. Discipline, people like to focus on punishment. I’d rather focus on using the supplemental discipline mechanism to better promote player safety.
QUESTION: Steroids have obviously run their course through all of the professional sports. Yet your sport, your league, has not had a positive test in years, as I can recall. People who know steroids say if you’re not catching anybody, your testing isn’t good enough. Is it your belief simply no NHL players are doing steroids now?
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: Well, it’s clear that if we’re not having positive tests, none of them are getting caught, which means if some are, it’s not very many.
I do believe, and we’ve been in discussions over the last couple of years with WADA, there are ways that we can improve our substance testing, our performance-enhancing testing program. But that’s something we need to do with the Players’ Association, and that’s something, when we actually sit down and begin discussions, we need to address.
I think we have a good program. It deals with education and counseling. It has comprehensive testing, but I think we can probably do more. At the right time we’ll have that discussion with the Players’ Association.
QUESTION: There’s been recent reports of a group in Seattle interested in an NHL team. What are your thoughts on Seattle as a hockey market? With Winnipeg done, do you have a list of cities that are potentials?
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: There are no shortages of places that continue to express interest in having a team. I think it was half a dozen, and now it’s down to five because Winnipeg comes off the list. My answer is the same. I don’t want to raise anybody’s expectation. We’re hoping not to do relocation. You all know that we don’t believe in doing that, except as a last resort. We do everything possible to avoid it, and we’re not planning on expanding.
The interest is flattering, but I don’t want anyone in any market that doesn’t have a team to get their hopes up yet.
QUESTION: Québec City was involved, Pierre Peladeau, the owner of Quebecor, launched a sports channel yesterday. He got 25 games of the Ottawa Senators. Is there some sort of relation there that we can say they are up front to get something in Québec City done or there’s absolutely nothing to deal with that?
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: I am not going to raise expectations. I’m well aware of Mr. Peladeau’s interest and that is gratifying. I am well aware there are plans to build an arena, although we have made no promise of what will happen after that.
At the present time, since I don’t have a franchise we’re looking to relocate, and as I said, we’re not planning on expanding, I don’t want to get people’s expectations in Québec City raised.
QUESTION: Despite the $3 billion in revenue across the League, a lot of teams are losing money, or at least claim to. Is the gap too large between high and low revenue teams? Especially now that you’re in Winnipeg, what adjustments need to be made to revenue sharing and the CBA, the next one, so those clubs can be in the best position to succeed?
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: The fact we’re in Winnipeg, the agreement is basically self-executing. It will apply to the Winnipeg team as it applied to the Atlanta team, again, assuming Board approval, which everybody is anticipating.
To the extent there are issues in Collective Bargaining, as I said in my opening remarks, the good news is it’s too early to discuss it. The discussions I’ll have in the first instance on that topic will be with Mr. Fehr. I won’t be doing it in this environment.
QUESTION: Is the gap too big?
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: We have a system that is dramatically improved from where we were in terms of teams’ ability to compete. You’ve seen it in our competitive balance. There has been dramatic improvement. Whether or not the Players’ Association or we are going to be looking for adjustments is something we’ll look at quietly and hopefully resolve quietly.
QUESTION: Your office put out numbers on concussions specific to how they were suffered, be it from fighting, be it from hitting, whatever. The number that caught my eye was from fighting. I think it was 8% or somewhere around there. I’m wondering, after you’ve given out those numbers, has there been added talk, be it from managers, owners, governors, specific to that part and their interest in perhaps ending fighting?
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: I don’t think the discussion has gotten to the level where there’s widespread sentiment to end fighting. I’m not sure exactly what you mean by ‘ending fighting.’ I assume you mean by increasing the penalties for fighting, because there are penalties now.
The issue is really one about concussions. The reason for releasing the numbers is to make clear that concussions in the game are being caused by a variety of causes. And, in fact, the increase isn’t coming, although the conventional wisdom incorrectly was that it was coming from more head hits, it’s coming from pucks to the head. Maybe we should be having mandatory visors, something we’ll discuss as we have over the years. Sometimes it’s collisions with your own teammates, sometimes it’s a check where you fall and bang your head.
The number of head hits really hasn’t been the cause of the increase in concussions. It’s been other sources, and that’s what we’re looking at in a comprehensive way.
One of the things that I indicated the Blue Ribbon Committee is looking at, as it’s been dubbed, is whether or not we want to expand the head?hit rule. Accidents I think are going to happen and we have to deal with that and we do that through the proper diagnosis and treatment of concussions. Nobody has taken the leap that you’re suggesting.
QUESTION: Any updates with the next Winter Olympics or the World Cup?
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: There is no update. That, again, is something that we will be in discussions with the Players’ Association on because the international competitions, be it the conducting of a World Cup, which we’re interested in doing, and the participation in the Winter Olympics, is something that we need to discuss and resolve with the Players’ Association.
Mr. Fehr has been on the job a relatively short time. He’s putting together his organization. He’s been doing a lot of homework and catching up. In due course, we’ll be having those discussions.
QUESTION: Any more precise indication of where the cap is going?
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: Actually, I think Mr. Daly did. I don’t remember giving cap numbers.
Bill, do you want to venture a guess?
BILL DALY: I think our current projections have the cap being in excess of $60 million, maybe as high as $63 million.
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: And, obviously, the new television contract in the United States has an impact on that, bringing it up.
QUESTION: Poignant because of the travel back and forth between Vancouver and Boston being difficult, the format of 2-2-1-1-1, any increased talk of going to 2-3-2?
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: We periodically raise it with the managers, who when it comes to competitive issues are the heart and soul. There doesn’t seem to be much of an appetite. I think people in our game are used to the travel. They like to keep the routine going.
It is what it is. We’ve been doing it for, oh, at least a couple of decades. I think if you go back to the ‘80s or ‘70s, there were a couple of years when it was tried. But this seems to be what the clubs are most comfortable with. What we try to do is make sure we’re providing the best environment for them to have the competition and let it all out on the ice.
QUESTION: Was there any discussion at the highest level about the nature of the Boston/Tampa game, the penalty-free game, specifically with regard to how officials viewed the game, players were cautious, officials didn’t want to call borderlines, maybe it encouraged people on both sides on how they play these games?
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: I think it was a well-played, disciplined game. I know the people in Tampa felt the game was well-officiated. That’s what they’ve told us. It was one of those games where I thought the officials did a good job of letting the players play.
QUESTION: Gary, will Brendan’s new duties be performed out of the New York office or Toronto office?
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: Well, the New York office principally. But we move back and forth easily among all of our offices. We also have telepresence capability. We will have, if you will, a mini-situation room in New York, as well.
The ability of the two offices to talk to each other at any given time, to exchange video and data at any particular time, will be there. It’s one of the benefits that technology has given us and we tend to take advantage of it. Although even now when Brendan is based in New York, he does spend time in Toronto with Hockey Operations and in the situation room.
Enjoy the Final. Safe travels. We’ll look forward to seeing you around over the next week or so. Thank you.
And here’s Colin Campbell and Brendan Shanahan’s presser:
The Moderator: Colin is going to make a brief statement, then we’ll take some questions.
COLIN CAMPBELL: I think that Gary is right in announcing this now. We talked about this a lot this past season. I approached Gary back in March about supplemental discipline, and it was time to have a fresh look and fresh eyes at the process of discipline.
When I first took this job over from Brian Burke, as we all know, technology was at a different state than it is now. That was the most difficult part of supplemental discipline and being consistent. It’s a competitive aspect amongst managers and teams regarding what’s applied, when it’s applied. Now we have the ability to, up to the second almost, monitor all games. The actual difficulty or challenge in supplemental discipline is the actual process of making a decision.
We’ve always bounced this off the managers every year. Particularly at this upcoming meeting, we reassess where we’ve been in supplemental discipline, the hits, whether they be head hits, cross?checking, as Gary said, the safety of players.
Our job, the League’s job in discipline is to protect players from players, and to make it safer. But also, as we said before a million times, to keep the physicality in our game, which is a great part of our game.
Having said that, this past season was a real challenge for Hockey Operations and for all of us because we took the hitting in hockey to another step. Last year for the first time in the history of the game we said a legal hit, which was a legal hit in the past, shoulder to the head, is not legal in certain areas or circumstances. That was the blindside hit after the Savard Cooke and Booth Richards’ hit.
We went to another area this year. And no matter how well we defined it, how well we spelled it out, every time there was a hit, whether it was your group or an extension of your group or whoever, players, coaches, everyone: ‘This is a head hit; a ‘head shot’ you would call it, whether it was a legal shoulder making contact with the head.
So it has been a process. If there was an injury in those situations, it manifested itself further. It’s an area we have to get our arms around. With Brendan, Steve Yzerman, Joe Nieuwendyk, Rob Blake and Rob Blake and Brendan have been part of Hockey Operations now, Brendan for two years and Rob Blake this last year it’s been really good having players who just got off the ice and have a feel for it. And I think this is a natural progression to move this over.
Brendan still has the assets or the capabilities of coming to our group and bouncing them off our group no different than I bounce them off of everybody. At the end of the day, someone has to make a decision. That will be Brendan’s job now.
QUESTION: Colie, we know that Gregory takes taunts on the team about who his dad is. Is that part of your decision to step down from this one?
COLIN CAMPBELL: No, not really. It’s part of the game. He’s having fun playing now. I’m having fun, me and my wife, watching him play.
There are taunts in all aspects of the game. If you talk to the people standing between the benches, they’ll tell you what they hear on the ice. There are no boundaries down there. That’s just another area of some of the things that are said. It’s all part of the game, trying to win.
I think the fact that 13 years of this, I think it’s an all-encompassing job. It’s hard to do other aspects of your jobs. When something happens, we just don’t look at it once, flip a coin, say is it two, three or four? It carries you for a good day to two days. You want to do the right thing for the players, for the game.
It’s a job that needs, as I said to Gary, needs some fresh eyes, a fresh look. I’ve been doing it for 13 years. You’ve got to get out of that rut. I think it’s got to move on.
It was no different in my other life when I was a coach. If you’re part of making a trade, you have all the input, and the general manager made the final decision. In this case, I was a general manager, now it will be Brendan. He’ll take input from everyone and the final decision will be his.
QUESTION: Brendan, you’ve been around Hockey Ops enough to see that Colie’s integrity the last couple years has been questioned, every decision seems to be second-guessed. Who is to say when you come in and Steve Yzerman’s team is playing, you obviously won a Cup with him, that people might say, Well, he’s looking at it this way or that way.
BRENDAN SHANAHAN: You assume that Steve and I are still friends (smiling).
QUESTION: Are you prepared to take this, as Gary said, thankless job and everything that goes with it?
BRENDAN SHANAHAN: Well, first off I’d like to touch on that because it has been described as a thankless job. I just want to say for the record as a player that was disciplined under Colie on a few occasions, and now having been honored to get to know him better and work with him over the last two years, he does deserve and is owed a great deal of thanks by hockey.
To think back when he took this job and how far he’s brought this role, the way that it’s changed over the years from having videotapes driven to him in snowstorms and meeting people on the sides of highways to rush home and watch it on his VCR, to having the Situation Room that we have now in Toronto, I think that 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.
I can say that, again, I played against Gregory. Gregory is a hard-working, honest, quiet player that plays tough. Colie was the same way. He’s that type of a person in the office, as well. He is respected so much, and I respect him so much. I thank him for giving me the honor of putting me in a position of having hopefully a positive impact on the safety of the game of hockey.
COLIN CAMPBELL: You won’t be thanking me next year at this time (laughter).
QUESTION: Brendan, what do you think your greatest challenge in taking this job on is?
BRENDAN SHANAHAN: Well, I think the job itself. It’s been described to me many ways, quite honestly, by these guys. I think that in some ways it’s not a job that you go into thinking that you’re going to be getting a lot of pats on the back. But if you do it with the kind of integrity that Colie has, and I believe you’ve got to be over-inclusive, I think you have to really draw from your experience, draw from the experience of others around you.
I think that there’s a great responsibility here. I think that the game has never been played at a better level. I see that as just something that’s a great challenge. I don’t know that every day is going to be an easy one. I certainly was made well aware before I accepted the position all the different hurdles that there are.
But, again, it’s just very important to me. It’s too important for me to pass up an opportunity to hopefully have an impact on this great game and on the players that play it.
QUESTION: Do you think part of what you’ll bring to the job is communicating to players? Colie talked about the challenge of defining the rules, the constant evolution of the rules. Will that be something that you need to do going forward, just explaining to the players and the public what you’re doing, what your standards are, how you’re trying to adhere to them?
BRENDAN SHANAHAN: I think communication is going to be very important. I think over the next few months I have an opportunity to really listen and learn from a lot of people.
I think communicating with the players, I think communicating with my peers at the NHL, and I think communicating with the NHLPA and some of my friends there. I think it’s just a matter of really building a consensus, moving towards next season, using the next few months to sort of prepare myself for when the season starts.
But I absolutely think that in this day and age constant communication is important. I remember as a player you really don’t think about supplemental discipline until it’s happening to you.
I think that I’ve sat through those meetings before where they sort of warn you what is going to happen to you if you do these things. Sometimes you’re thinking about tomorrow night’s game or the game in a couple days or the game you played last night.
So it’s a matter of my group staying on top of it, constantly trying to reach out to people and communicate in that fashion.
COLIN CAMPBELL: I think one thing here that is important, Brendan touched on it, is that a lot of people have comments about supplemental discipline and thoughts on it. What’s most important is the players and how they feel about it and how they want to play the game and be protected in the game.
When we first started, I said I just got out of the coaches ranks, as Mike Murphy did. We brought in Kay Whitmore, Kris King who just retired, we had a touch, a feel for it. And lately Brendan and Rob Blake have been involved. It’s very important to have, in the question you asked, Brendan touched on it, to have that feel with the players, that understanding of where they want the game to be and how they want it to be played.
We can all say all we want. The managers work hard on this. It’s important they protect their assets. It’s also important how the players want to play the game. That’s something that both Brendan and Rob have brought to our group the past year, two years.
QUESTION: Brendan, as there’s been so much more consternation lately on the concussion issues, the blindside hits, I think the feeling from this side of the podium is, when you get a guy who clearly breaks all the rules set down, the suspensions haven’t been as harsh or as long as many of my colleagues and myself feel like it would need to be to stop the guy from doing it again. Can we say that with you coming into this job, maybe yesterday’s three-game suspension will be tomorrow’s five?, six?, or seven-game suspension? Will it change?
BRENDAN SHANAHAN: I can’t promise you how I’m going to view each individual situation. I think it’s important to state that I do love the physical aspect of hockey. It’s a very difficult and fine balance to keep that in the game, to allow players to play on their toes, but at the same time for them to know what they can and can’t do.
I think that, as I said, over the next few months, communicating with players, I think that it’s up to me to take a lot of direction, ask a lot of questions like you just asked me, and then when the time comes to make a decision. If I feel that all of the criteria of a player trying to injure another player has been met, then I’m going to have to act.
But I can’t promise you what was once a three is now a seven. I think that it’s all going to be individual.
I will promise you that when I do make those decisions, I will try to make my thought process and everything that went into that thought process very clear and very visible to the entire hockey world.
QUESTION: Concussions have become such a flash point, such an emotional issue. Is there a way of curtailing it? Is there a sense of alarm and concern, or do you view it as an overreaction in some quarters?
COLIN CAMPBELL: I think that’s what we’re trying to get our arms around with this committee, group, department that Gary has put together. We’ve worked on it. Kris King was delighted to send his 23 sets of shoulder pads to Brendan’s office a couple months ago.
There are so many different aspects to the game. I talked to an NHL coach who just attended a tournament that his 11-year-old son was in in Ontario. He said there were three concussions in two days. I remember three concussions on my team when I played. Is it the speed of the game? Is it the shoulder pads? We’re more aware of it and players are prepared to come forward? There’s a number of factors.
So I think it’s all-encompassing, not just discipline in how players act or hit. I think that’s something we’ve got to get our arms around. I think that’s something even the boards, the glass, everything. I think that’s something Brendan has been working on.
I don’t know if you want to jump in there.
BRENDAN SHANAHAN: I just echo what Colie is saying. It’s not any one thing. I think it’s part of several things put together.
QUESTION: Brendan, the league has, for a couple years it seems, taken a very kind of legalistic approach to supplemental discipline, where they’ll go through a rule word by word and apply it sort of frame by frame to an incident. At times it seemed there’s been a kind of pragmatic approach missing. The Zdeno Chara hit may be an example, Ryane Clowe said of that. He’s not sure whether it’s legal or not. That kind of hit, that kind of injury, there should be something to send a message to players. Will you try in any way to take sort of a more pragmatic approach, like big picture, was it dangerous, was the player hurt, should the player have made it or made it, regardless of whether it’s legal?
BRENDAN SHANAHAN: I think we can all agree it’s a difficult position to be in. On the one hand, any time you have an injured player, and on the other hand you have a player that is delivering a hit in a physical game, I don’t think that this is going to be easy. I think that 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.
But I do believe that over the next few months, I’ve been thinking about this since Colie and Gary approached me in March, but I do believe as I build my team and build the whole Department of Safety, which will include a lot of things, I think that all those questions will be sort of answered in the next few months as we approach next season.
QUESTION: Brendan, you said a couple times about building your team. Are you planning to go out and find some people to work with that are not currently with the NHL headquarters?
BRENDAN SHANAHAN: I’m open to that. But I think we’ve also got some great people at the NHL. I plan on using all the resources that we have, including our room in Toronto, including obviously Colie. He’s done this job for 13 years. I’ve reached out to Brian Burke. I’ve asked him his impressions, his perspectives.
I think, like I said earlier, my intention especially in the beginning is to be as over-thoughtful and over-inclusive as I can be. Then it’s just a matter of finding the right people and leaning on the people I know that have had experience at this job. Quite frankly doing the very best I can at a very difficult job.
Paul also forwarded me a video of Shanahan discussing his new role on NHL On the Fly:
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