warning Hi, we've moved to USCANNENBERGMEDIA.COM. Visit us there!

Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

NHL's Shanahan Deters Dirty Hits With Video

Sophie Pustil |
September 30, 2011 | 5:25 p.m. PDT

Staff Writer

Sidney Crosby's high profile injury has put the issue in the limelight. (Dan4th Nicholas via Creative Commons)
Sidney Crosby's high profile injury has put the issue in the limelight. (Dan4th Nicholas via Creative Commons)
It’s not even October, and already newly instated NHL Vice President of Player Safety and Hockey Operations, Brendan Shanahan, has suspended eight players, four of whom were banned for the remainder of the preseason and upwards of five regular season games.

That’s already 21% of the suspensions handed out over the entire 2010-2011 season, and the regular season doesn’t start for another week.

Shanahan isn’t simply tougher than his predecessor Colin Campbell; he has key rule changes on his side.

The league has finally responded to criticism that it is not working hard enough to protect its players, particularly as more information is coming out about the trauma caused by brain injuries sustained in hits to the head.

With Marc Savard unlikely to ever play again following his second concussion in ten months this past February, and Sidney Crosby still struggling to get back to practicing with full contact after suffering a concussion in January, the NHL was forced to reevaluate Rule 48.

Previously bogged down with qualifiers such as from what direction a hit to the head was delivered (was it a lateral or blindside hit; was the player traveling north/south or east/west), the rule has been altered to include all hits that target the head and make it the principal point of contact, which is one step closer to eliminating them completely.

Even Shanahan’s new job title – Senior Vice President of Player Safety –emphasizes the league’s intent to prove that they are doing what they can to protect their athletes and their quality of life both now and in the future.

Prior to the beginning of the season, Shanahan released a video to all the players, media, and fans that highlighted the new wording in the rule changes – specifically the changes to hits to the head and boarding – and provided examples of the hits that are now illegal, many of which would have been considered clean mere months ago.

Shanahan has also responded to the criticism elicited by some by Campell's actions. Namely, lack of case-to-case consistency in suspensions handed down, the relative short length he was willing to suspend players for, and his tendency to turn a blind eye to blatantly illegal plays simply because the player who committed them wasn’t a repeat offender.

Where Campbell’s let-them-play attitude may have had its place in the NHL of twelve years ago, it had become outdated and out of place in a league with players who are faster and stronger than ever before, and a world with medical reports that reveal concussions to be injuries players can’t simply walk off.

Where Campbell’s suspensions usually resulted in confusion from players and fans alike, Shanahan has made it his goal to educate with each ruling he hands out.

Since the first suspension this year (Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond of the Calgary Flames, pictured left), Shanahan has been posting videos on the NHL’s official website that break down the incident with video replay and highlight exactly what factors went in to determining the length of the suspension.

In just over a week, he has made eight of these videos, providing a clarity and consistency that the shadowy dealings of the NHL War Room had previously lacked.

When asked about the praise the videos have been getting from fans and media in other sports in a Q&A with Puck Daddy’s Greg Wyshynski, Shanahan responded, “I didn’t start doing this to make good videos. I’ll consider it a big success when I haven’t made a video in two months.”

Between actually handing out tough suspensions for rule violations, his commitment to educating players with his video breakdowns, and his willingness to explain – logically – the thought process behind all matters of discipline for the fans, achieving that lofty goal doesn’t seem far off.


Reach Sophie by email.

Best way to find more great content from Neon Tommy?

Or join our email list below to enjoy the weekly Neon Tommy News Highlights.



Craig Gillespie directed this true story about "the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Watch USC Annenberg Media's live State of the Union recap and analysis here.