Sunday, April 15, 2012

Shanahan: You've Made It Worse, Not Better

Dear Brendan:

When you were appointed to be league disciplinarian, I was hopeful that this was some kind of sign from the league that, instead of just paying lip-service to "the new NHL", that the league was finally serious about things.

I'll be the first to admit that I'm a fan of the old, rough-and-tumble style of hockey that I grew up with in the 70s and 80s. I've not liked the fact that I've had to watch my beloved Broad Street Bullies have to ignore their lineage and adjust to playing in "the new NHL". That said, I'm an adult. I'm a fan of the sport. I like seeing my favorite players have long, productive careers. So, I was willing to adjust to the changes. And, admittedly, while the game is different, it's at least as exciting as the bloody games of my youth.

That said, as someone who's been willing to give up enjoyment of the old time style of hockey, I feel as though I've been sold a bill of goods. I watch my team finally mostly complete the transformation from winning through grinding the opposition into the dust to winning through pure skill and observance of the fundamentals. Then, I watch as certain teams are allowed to get away with the hockey equivalent of murder, game in and game out. I feel like I was suckered. I feel like I was told "if you give up your weapons, I'll make it worth your while" only to be shivved by the people that promised me a new and better hockey experience.

Under your tenure, I've watched the league go from questionable officiating and supplementary discipline to something that's no longer questionable. The agenda that used to just be hinted at is now quite clear.

Overall, I think that your appointment has made things worse than they were before. In the beginning, you seemed really interested in ensuring that everyone toed the player-safety line. Then, somewhere around the time of this year's AllStar Game, it all changed. Things that got anyone suspended - star or repeat-offender - now don't even get a full review. Now, it feels like it's open-season out there. It feels like the players are in a position of having to figure out what's actually allowed and what's not; what will be enforced and what won't; and, worst of all, who is subject to sanction and who's immune. It's awful.

I don't know if the change I've watched unfold is because you've changed your mind or the league has forced you to change your mind. I can only hope that it's the latter. Otherwise, I really have to question your integrity and your ethics. I have to question everything about you as it relates to hockey.

In the end, I can only hope that you redeem yourself by looking back on the body of disciplinary work you've authored, this season, and say to yourself, "I've jobbed this up good and proper" and resign. I hope that, if the jobbing was at the behest of others, you use the freedom associated with your resignation to let the world know, "hey, wasn't my fault: I was told by the league to sacrifice players' safety for the greater-good of the league's bottom-line." 

One way or the other, you need to do something to fix the mess you've involved yourself in and helped to create.

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