After a hiatus due to the Tampa Bay Lightning's involvement in the 2011 NHL playoffs, our "Question of the Week column marks its return with a league-news inspired query.
If you're like me, or any number of NHL fans, you have not been thrilled with former National Hockey League head disciplinarian - Colin Campbell -- nor his minions who officiate on ice with the same amount of consistency as Campbell (none at all). The 2011 NHL playoffs further emphasized the league's inability to stand up and enforce rules and regulations on ice and off.
Brendan Shanahan is taking over for Colin Campbell as the head-cheese of discipline for the NHL. What does Shanahan and the league need to change with rule enforcement and discipline? What would greatly improve things?
Shanahan takes over the gig officially after the Stanley Cup playoffs, he has his work cut out for him... Here are some of Raw Charge's thoughts:
All anybody wants is consistency and impartiality. If the punishment for A is B today, it should be that way all the time. It seems like that would be the easy part. As a former player who retired fairly recently, Shanahan may face scrutiny from those watching to see if he plays favorites. The reason major sports leagues seem to be tougher on gambling than drugs is that gambling has a direct and immediate impact on the integrity of the games played. Because once a league loses that integrity, it's finished. While I don't believe Campbell was in any way corrupt, he put himself in positions that allowed people to ask tough questions. Shanahan, or anybody else in a position to have a direct impact on the outcome of games played, has got to avoid that by establishing and maintaining integrity. Of course, being consistent will go a long way towards squashing those difficult questions before anybody even has a chance to ask them.
The thing the league needs to do first and foremost (aside from the headshot ban, I'm assuming everyone is calling for that), is to start holding the referees and officials more accountable for missed calls. At every level. There's no consequence to the refs for missed calls, make up calls, and the like. If the offices of the NHL demand more accountability out of the refs, a snowball effect can happen. Accountability from them on ice likely would lead to less frustration from the players, which could lead to calmer heads all around.
Consistency would be key. Anyone who follows hockey knows their consistency in the type of suspensions and whether a player gets one or not is akin to that of spinning a wheel on that website that was created. So application of a standard discipline for similar actions would be something I'd like to see. The change in who doles out the supplemental discipline should be able to bring forth with them a new strategy in how discipline is handed out.
What needs to change and what would greatly improve things is to codify and publish the rules on supplementary discipline, and then enforce all of the rules consistently. Consistency is really the biggest issue with the rules at this point. Basically, just about anything goes - particularly if you're a star player.The so-called "Wheel of Justice" is humorous, certainly, but there's definitely some truth to it. Rule enforcement is so inconsistent that no one knows what the penalty will actually be if someone does something wrong. Not only is it a farce, but it's also gone so far as to become a game within the game. People are taking side bets on who will get what for breaking the rules - which should tell you everything you need to know about rule enforcement at this time.And that's a physical danger to not only the players, but the referees and linesmen as well. If it's okay to hit someone in the head, then it's okay to hit an on-ice official...right? How long can a game be played and still have its integrity intact if no one's calling penalties by the rules? This is why I've referred to the NHL a number of times as the banana republic of North American sports. It's hard to take a sport seriously when it can't take its own rules seriously.