Shanahan to succeed Campbell as NHL disciplinarian
VANCOUVER, B.C. -- NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman on Wednesday announced that Brendan Shanahan will be taking over for Colin Campbell as the League's dean of supplemental discipline while also heading up a new, expanded department aimed at enhancing player safety.
Shanahan, whose new title is NHL Senior Vice President of Player Safety and Hockey Operations, is taking over the job of administering supplemental discipline from Campbell, the NHL’s Senior V.P. of Hockey Operations, who held those responsibilities for 13 years.
Bettman was quick to point out that this is "not a diminution" of Campbell, but merely a change that is necessary after more than a decade with the same sheriff in town on behalf of the commissioner. The commissioner also said Campbell approached him about relinquishing his supplemental discipline duties in March.
"Both Colin and I believe that it is time to take a fresh look at the standards that we use, and if we're going to move to harsher discipline, that change needs to send a clear message, and we think it would probably be best to do it on a clean slate," Bettman said. "Having Brendan, who only recently came off the ice after a wonderful career, will give us the adjustment and the focus and the credibility that this change will bring about."
Campbell will retain his role in Hockey Operations, but starting next season Shanahan will be in charge of handing out the fines and suspensions. He will still be based out of the League's New York headquarters but Shanahan will be in constant contact with the Toronto office through Cisco's Telepresence as well as trips north of the border.
Bettman's expectation is that Shanahan will dole out harsher supplemental discipline, but this is also something to be discussed fully with the Players' Association. He added that it was a part of Campbell's job "that he hates," and is partly why this change is being made.
"The single tipping point was Colie coming to me and saying he thought this would be a good idea in light of all the things we discussed," Bettman said. "We talked about it. I thought about it. I thought about, in part, how long he's been doing that element, what a thankless job it is. I say that now with Brendan in the room because I was kind of painting a slightly different picture for him as I was trying to persuade him to do this.
"The tipping point may have been 13 years of supplemental discipline. At some point you deserve to have your sentence commuted."
Bettman smiled when he said that, but the term "thankless job" is not lost on Shanahan. He said he is taking on the responsibilities of doling out the discipline with the knowledge that it is going to be a great challenge and there will be many days when he doesn't receive a pat on the back.
Shanahan also said that the opportunity for him to have an imprint on the game in this way is too good to pass up.
"The job itself, it's been described to me many ways, quite honestly, by these guys," Shanahan said. "I think that there's a great responsibility here. I think that the game has never been played at a better level. I see that as just something that's a great challenge. I don't know that every day is going to be an easy one. I certainly was made well aware before I accepted the position all the different hurdles that there are."
Shanahan credited Campbell for being an innovator for the game over the past 13 years and using the developing technology to be an astute disciplinarian throughout his tenure.
"I just want to say for the record as a player that was disciplined under Colie on a few occasions, and now having been honored to get to know him better and work with him over the last two years, he does deserve and is owed a great deal of thanks by hockey," Shanahan said. "To think back when he took this job and how far he's brought this role, the way that it's changed over the years from having videotapes driven to him in snowstorms and meeting people on the sides of highways to rush home and watch it on his VCR, to having the Situation Room that we have now in Toronto, I think that history will show that Colie has been a great innovator for the game of hockey, and we all do owe him a great deal of thanks."
Campbell joked that Shanahan's opinion might change.
"He won't be thanking me next year," Campbell said, obviously referring to the challenges associated with the job of being the NHL's disciplinarian, including constant second-guessing by fans, media, players, coaches and executives.
Shanahan understands all that is coming his way, which is why he said he will spend the next several months talking to several of his associates around the NHL about how this job should be handled. He said he has already reached out to Toronto GM Brian Burke, who held the job as the League's disciplinarian from 1992-98.
"I don't think this is going to be easy," Shanahan said. "Instincts will play a part in this."
Not to be lost in Shanahan's new role is the other part of his new job description. Shanahan will be acting on his disciplinarian duties while heading up the League's new department focused on player safety. He will work on rule changes and with equipment changes all based on enhancing player safety.
Bettman sees the job of disciplinarian and safety officer as one and the same.
"There's a certain conduct that we want to see out of the game," Bettman said. "Then we've got to make sure we do what is necessary. People like to focus on punishment. I'd rather focus on using supplemental discipline mechanism to better promote player safety."
Shanahan said he is still putting together his team that will serve under him in this department. He is not opposed to looking outside the NHL for assistance, "but I plan on using all the resources with have at the NHL."
Campbell was at the forefront of the League's current rules and his input helped mold the way the game is played today. However, he said focusing on the other aspects of his job while also playing the role of disciplinarian was becoming harder and harder to do, and he believes that a new and fresh look at supplementary discipline is needed.
"It's an all-encompassing job. It's hard to do other aspects of your jobs," Campbell said. "When something happens, we just don't look at it once, flip a coin, say is it two, three or four (games)? It carries you for a good day to two days. You want to do the right thing for the players, for the game. It's a job that needs, as I said to Gary, needs some fresh eyes, a fresh look. I've been doing it for 13 years. You've got to get out of that rut. I think it's got to move on."
Campbell trusts that Shanahan, who now has two years working in Hockey Operations, is the right person for the job in part because he is not that far removed from his potential Hall of Fame playing career. Shanahan retired after the 2008-09 season with 654 goals and three Stanley Cup rings all won with the Detroit Red Wings (1997-98 and 2002).
"At the end of the day, someone has to make a decision," Campbell said. "That will be Brendan's job now."