Kukla's Korner Hockey
by George Malik on 12/25/11 at 05:11 PM ET
The general perception as to how one Colin Campbell meted out justice as the NHL’s disciplinarian went something like this: Campbell would receive video of a suspension-worthy offense, watch the video while commiserating with “war room” chief Mike Murphy, and then he’d allow the general managers/owners of both the player who delivered and received the hit, respectively (as well as the NHLPA), to engage in a little bit of lobbying before taking the offense, the player’s reputation and the “optics” of fining or suspending a player (see: it was highly more likely that a player would be suspended for a hit delivered on a nationally-televised game in a big U.S. or Canadian market than it was if, say, the Ducks were hosting the Blue Jackets) before spinning the “Wheel of Justice” while making up an excuse as to why strikingly similar hits merited suspensions in some cases but were good, clean hits in which it was the recipient’s fault for being a dummy.
The NHL’s disciplinary policy has at least become more consistent and more transparent under Brendan Shanahan’s watch, and the Boston Globe’s Kevin Dupont reveals that the recently-retired Shanahan consults with two former players in Rob Blake and Stephane Quintal, who’s found something of a home after a failed stint on the CBC as one of Shanahan’s right-hand men on what is something of a disciplinary committee, and while Shanahan has the final say as to how many games and/or how many bucks players might surrender, Quintal tells Dupont that the trio bring completely independently-determined viewpoints to the table:
“We all look at the tapes on our own,’’ said Quintal, who splits his time fairly evenly between the league’s Manhattan office and his Montreal home, another advantage of the video age. “Then without talking with each other, we all give Brendan our opinion, what we saw. Then it’s for him to decide. So far, it’s been great, I love it. I know there’s still a lot to learn, but I’m up to the challenge.’’
Quintal last played as a pro in Italy (Asiago) during the NHL’s 2004-05 lockout, and didn’t get in uniform again, other than to play a role in the 2005 movie about Maurice Richard, “The Rocket,’’ that was filmed at the old Colisee in Quebec City (once the home of the Nordiques). He became increasingly drawn to business ventures in and around Montreal, investing in and helping to manage a number of upscale fitness centers and acting as a key promoter when the Champions Tour, featuring aging PGA stars, stops in Montreal. All along, he figured he would like to return to hockey, but not in the more conventional role of player-turned-coach. When Shanahan began talking to him last spring about a role in his department, Quintal felt it could be an ideal fit.
“We went out to eat and Brendan brought his iPad with him,’’ recalled Quintal, his soon-to-be-boss spicing up their dinner that night in Montreal no doubt with a video montage of two-handers, roughings, and gross misconducts. “He shows me the tapes and says, ‘OK, this is what the job’s about, this is what I do.’ And right away, I thought, ‘Oh, my God, this is great.’ We watched some of those tapes, I told him what I thought. I always wanted to get back in somehow, but I had enough of the hockey life with all the travel. It’s more the business stuff like this that gets me excited.’’
Quintal also aids Shanahan in face-to-face meetings with clubs, like the one here recently with the Bruins, explaining how the hockey operations department functions. Quintal’s first language is French, a factor that had to be in his favor when Shanahan made the hire. The league’s French-first-speaking players shouldn’t feel they have an ally in Quintal, but they at least will have the comfort of knowing nothing will be lost in translation.
“When we were in Boston, Brendan brought video and did a whole PowerPoint presentation,’’ recalled Quintal. “The guys saw what’s good and what’s not legal. I think it’s good. He wants to be very clear about what he’s doing and just bring a very transparent approach to the whole process.’’
Quintal realizes, too, that it’s a much different game than the one he left less than eight years ago. The red line is gone, most of the obstruction tactics have been stripped out, the speed is dizzying, and some of the hits are frightful.
“The biggest difference I see,’’ offered Quintal, “is that on defense I remember that I could block for a guy. If the puck went into my partner’s corner, I could block the winger who was coming down on him. So, if I can speak as a defenseman, you’re in that corner and here comes this guy running at you at 90 miles an hour. Holy cow! That’s a tough place to be.’’
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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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