October 6, 2011 in Sports

NHL opens with emphasis on blows to the head

Helene Elliott Los Angeles Times
 

National hockey league

Season openers

• Philadelphia at Boston, 4 p.m. ( TV : Versus)

• Montreal at Toronto, 4 p.m.

• Pittsburgh at Vancouver, 7 p.m. ( TV : Versus)

LOS ANGELES – The Stanley Cup has been hugged, kissed and photographed thousands of times and dented at least once since June, when the Boston Bruins defeated the Vancouver Canucks to win their first championship since 1972.

Fixing the damage caused when the Cup fell off a table was simple.

Now the Bruins get the hard job: defending it.

The NHL season will begin today with three games, including the Bruins playing host to the Philadelphia Flyers, and the Pittsburgh Penguins – minus concussion victim Sidney Crosby – at Vancouver. If there’s a theme to this season, it’s concern about blows to the head, prompted by hits that interrupted the careers of Crosby, St. Louis forward David Perron, Boston forward Marc Savard and others.

To signal that it’s serious and to clean up a murky disciplinary system, the NHL appointed former player Brendan Shanahan its senior vice president of hockey operations and player safety. He replaces Colin Campbell, whose unofficial title was vice president in charge of inconsistent calls.

Shanahan made an immediate impact by suspending nine players for 29 exhibitions and 31 regular-season games, costing them nearly $720,000. He accompanied each decision with a video in which he explained his ruling, casting the light of a thousand suns on the NHL’s darkest corners.

“The videos are done to provide clarity, but it’s also our goal and our hope not to be making videos,” Shanahan said. “But it’s an opportunity, even if it’s a team or a market that’s not involved in the suspension at all, to have a useful teaching tool. The videos are not meant in any way to embarrass anybody. It’s simply to be transparent to our players and to teach them, to educate them, and get their attention.

“I think up until now we didn’t do that. And the fact that we post them publicly is so that everybody that has a stake in the game – and I include the fans in that – will have a better understanding for the process that goes into making a decision.

“This is many of the same principles that Colin Campbell and his group did.”

Shanahan attributed the deluge of preseason incidents to a combination of overeager players trying to impress coaches and veterans adjusting to new standards.

He said he hadn’t heard a general manager tell him to slow down, “but I’d be naive to not think that some are thinking that.”


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