NHL Director of Players Safety Brendan Shanahan should feel fortunate he is employed by a league which is not exactly synonymous with competence or common sense. After all, this is the same group which was responsible for another senseless labor disruption which has created noticeable, if not significant, damage to the league’s brand. Who would have thought that sitting through an entire game of hockey could be almost as excruciatingly painful as a Max Pacioretty facial?
With Sheriff Shanahan being reluctant to properly laying down the law, is he giving players a green light for dangerous defenseless hits which have the potential of causing serious long term injury? Shanahan’s latest decision not to suspend Montreal Canadiens forward Pacioretty for headhunting New York Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh is yet another black eye to a league which is struggling with a few other credibility issues. Pacioretty received nothing more than a two minute minor boarding penalty for the exact type of dangerous play the league has said they are attempting to eliminate.
Shanahan’s peculiar decision not to discipline Pacioretty, who already has one suspension on his record, is telling players the league is not really interested in eliminating dangerous head shots, which as the NFL is painfully finding out, may be associated with serious health issues later in life. Is Shanahan attempting to cover for the incompetence of the league’s on-ice officials, who should have given Pacioretty a five minute major and game misconduct penalty for the illegal hit on McDonagh? Is ex-player Sheriff Shanny playing favorites towards the swashbucklers because he was one of them in his day and can relate to them?
If Shanahan is playing politics with his decision not to penalize dangerous and reckless play, he may be playing a dangerous game. Shanahan, who was no stranger to the sin bin during his accomplished career, is not doing the players any favors by giving offending players the benefit of the doubt on plays which have motive and clearly show intent. If anything, the league is exposing itself to potential negligence by not taking the appropriate disciplinary action.
The Pacioretty incident is not the first time this season the league’s czar of discipline has ruled over a dangerous head-shot causing injury. When the Vancouver Canucks Jannik Hansen implanted his forearm into the rear of the of Chicago Blackhawks Marian Hossa’s head, Shanahan imposed a one game suspension on Hansen. This was a reasonable verdict, since it appeared to be a one to three game offense at most.
Attempts to justify such head shots with ridiculous excuses, which amount to little more than hair splitting, is doing a major disservice to the short and long term well being of the players. Shanahan and the league cannot afford to send murky signals when it comes to the welfare of its players.
Jamaican Reggae artist Bob Marley once sang about shooting a sheriff. With his failure to properly lay down the NHL law on the Pacioretty case, this particular sheriff appears to be more in danger of shooting himself in the foot.