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Amendment to Rule 48 Another Step In The Right Direction

Next year, the hit that knocked Nathan Horton out of the Stanley Cup Finals will be illegal. Photo Credit: Elisa/Getty Images

The general managers took yet another stride in removing and severely punishing hits to the head, proposing elimination of the word “blindside” from Rule 48.

While it continues to be muddled by politics and inconsistent suspensions, the proposed tweak takes yet another step in the right direction. The general managers need to keep players safe, and removing the designation of blindside adds yet another layer of protection. It’s a necessary step toward protecting players and making the game safer.

When the GMs met on June 8, they agreed to amend the rule to encompass all hits to the head. In the first season of Rule 48, several hits fell into a gray area, and former league disciplinarian Colin Campbell needed to make judgment calls. This amendment should eliminate some of that gray area and make these calls easier to make.

“It’s very similar to what we talked about at the GMs meeting in the sense of broadening the rule,” league executive Rob Blake told ESPN. “The exact interpretation will go forward. But we had a good understanding that the union, the players and the NHL together want to go forward for the safety of the players.”

One particular piece of that quote sticks out – “the exact interpretation will go forward.” Brendan Shanahan, Matthieu Schneider and the GMs need to carefully word the revised ruling. Leave no gray areas. Spell it out so the referees don’t need to make quick on-ice interpretations.

Rule 48 was the first major step taken to address player safety. This amendment should further strengthen the rule. Hopefully, the league doesn’t fumble the chance to make another great stride toward keeping the players safe.

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Colin Campbell Resigns As League Disciplinarian, Shanahan Named Replacement

June 1, 2011 1 comment

Brendan Shanahan will become the league's newest disciplinarian after Colin Campbell announced he's leaving the position after the season. Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Colin Campbell’s Wheel of Justice may have taken its last spin.

TSN’s Darren Dreger reported today that Campbell, the league’s Senior Vice President and Director of Hockey Operations, is resigning from his post as league disciplinarian. He’ll serve as Vice President of Hockey Operations.

Former New Jersey Devil Brendan Shanahan, hired by the league in 2009 as the Vice President of Hockey and Business Development, will likely replace Campbell.

Campbell, who served as disciplinarian since 1998, had a tumultuous season. He needed to rule over the league’s first year implementing the infamous “Rule 48” on shots to the head. Inconsistent punishments on several players drew the ire of general managers, players and fans alike.

In November, a group of e-mails exposed Campbell to further scrutiny. Tyler Dellow of m79hockey.com released several e-mail conversations between Campbell and former head of NHL officiating Stephen Walkom which painted Campbell as a complainer and a biased observer. He complained to Walkom about penalties called against his son, Gregory, a forward then with the Florida Panthers. He also called out Marc Savard, saying the forward was a “little fake artists” and “the biggest faker going.”

It didn’t end there. Campbell launched into a tirade about suspensions during an April interview with TSN Radio’s James Cybulski. The host asked Campbell about his decision not to suspend Raffi Torres for his hit on Brent Seabrook during the Vancouver Canucks first round series against the Chicago Blackhawks. Campbell launched into a tirade against Cybulski, angry that he needed to defend his decision.

Campbell hinted at leaving the position earlier this week, when he recused himself from his duties for the Stanley Cup Finals. His son Gregory, now a left-winger for the Bruins, would cause a conflict of interest. Mike Murphy took over those duties for the finals.

Shanahan will hopefully bring fresh ideas and more transparency to the position. The biggest issue with Campbell was his inconsistent rulings on player fines and suspensions. Two similar to the head, for example, could carry different consequences depending on the player, etc. He never explained his rationale for handing out either a fine, suspension, or both. It made the process almost laughable.

Shanahan’s research and development camps have drawn rave reviews for their ability to test several different changes. He’s shown a willingness to tweak things in order to improve the game. He’ll have his hands full fixing this system. If anyone is up to the task, it’s Shanahan.

Ex-Devil Brian Rafalski To Retire

May 24, 2011 1 comment

Rafalski, skating against the Ottawa Senators in the 2007 Eastern Conference semifinals, will retire with three Stanley Cup championships. Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Former New Jersey Devils defenseman Brian Rafalski will announce his retirement in the coming weeks, according to several media reports.

Rafalski, who signed a five-year, $30-million contract with the Detroit Red Wings after the 2007 season, will forgo the final year of his contract. He’ll leave $6 million on the table after retiring and open a big hole along the Red Wings blueline.

After going undrafted out of the University of Wisconsin, Rafalski spent four seasons in Europe – one in Sweden and three in Finland – before signing with the Devils before the 1999-2000 season. He finished with 32 points in the regular season, ranking third among the team’s defenseman, and averaged over 21 minutes of ice time in the playoffs. He helped lead the Devils to their second Stanley Cup championship.

He continued to take on a more prominent role on New Jersey’s defense throughout his seven-year stay. He led all defenseman in points five of the next six seasons, becoming the most consistent offensive threat along the blueline. He routinely topped 25 minutes of ice time in the playoffs, playing in all situations.

He won yet another cup during the 2002-2003 season, totaling 11 points and once again averaging over 25 minutes of ice time.

Rafalski became a main cog on the Devils blueline, an achievement considering the defense’s tremendous depth. In an era where Scott Niedermayer, Scott Stevens and Sheldon Souray all donned a Devils jersey, Rafalski found a way to stand out and make a name for himself. That’s no small feat, especially for someone who couldn’t catch on in the NHL for four years after college. His offensive skill and no frills play made him a fan favorite and one of the most successful Devils’ defenseman.

Despite leaving the team four seasons ago, the Devils have yet to fill the void left by Rafalski. Several replacements, from David Hale to Paul Martin, all failed to deliver the same offensive production. It’s possible that some prospects, like Alexander Urbom and the ever-present Jon Merrill, may fill that void. Rafalski remains one of the best to ever patrol the Devils’ blueline.

Avery’s Support For Same Sex Marriage Under Fire

Avery showed his support for gay marriage in a New York-based campaign, and already faced backlash. Photo Credit: Getty Images

Sean Avery isn’t a person you’ll usually see get a positive review from me on this blog. We all know that, on the ice, he does the best job of annoying opposing fans and players. His barrage of antics include the infamous screening of Martin Brodeur in the playoffs, leading to the formation of the “Avery Rule.”

Avery deserves credit for taking a public stance on a hot-button issue. Athletes in today’s society are trained to keep their mouths shut and stifle their opinions. We rarely, if ever, get to see their take on issues affecting the greater world around them. Which is why it was so refreshing to see Avery come out and show his support for gay marriage. The move would, inevitably, come with some backlash. No one expected it to come from a player agent.

Uptown Sports Management, a firm representing 11 NHL players, cast the first stone. Vice president Todd Reynolds used the company’s official Twitter feed to fire back at Avery. His tweets included the following:

Very sad to read Sean Avery’s misguided support of same-gender “marriage.” Legal or not, it will always be wrong.

A few things jump out about the tweet. The word misguided immediately jumps out at you. That’s a pretty strong choice of words. Think about all the other words you could use. He’s not attacking the decision as much as Avery with the use “misguided.” Also, putting quotes around marriage displayed Reynold’s lack of respect for the proposition. It’s not considered real marriage, and therefore needs the quotes.

Of course, Reynolds offered the “it’s not bigotry, I just believe in marriage between a man and a woman” argument. And, in his tweets, he never uses derogatory language towards homosexuals or their relationships. In all regards, it seems like a logical and well thought out rebuttal.

Reynolds, however, crossed the line by using the company’s Twitter feed. Is Reynold’s opinion the opinion of everyone from Uptown Sports Management? Sure seems like it now. And, whether he wants to admit it or not, Reynolds crossed professional boundaries. He placed his firm squarely within the context of a much larger social and moral debate. He expressed his own opinions, not that of the company. You just don’t do that publicly. It’s Business 101 – keep your personal life out of the business.

The attack isn’t bad. A little personal and a little strongly worded, but responsible. But Uptown Sports Management will now face several questions. Reynolds put the firm in the crosshairs, and in the process risked future business. If they can call out a random player, will they ultimately protect their own?

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