While NHL vice-president of player safety Brendan Shanahan has handed out stiffer suspensions in an effort to curb headshots, a small group of general managers are not pleased with the length of the banishments, according to Hockey Night in Canada’s Hotstove panelist Eric Francis.
Shanahan, who was given a mandate to deliver stiffer penalties for those players targeting the head, has dished out 31 games in suspensions, totalling $701,682.56 US in salary.
“I spoke to almost a third of the general managers today and I was a little bit surprised to find out that there is a group of them that has gone to [NHL commissioner] Gary Bettman and [deputy commissioner] Bill Daly and made it very clear that they are very unhappy with the way that Brendan Shanahan has handled [the length] of the suspensions," Francis said.
“The [suspensions] are pretty harsh and a lot of people agree with that — fans and media are definitely on board — but there’s a group of GMs that have gone and complained. They wanted the bar set high — they made that clear in their agenda in the summer. However, they didn’t want it 'doubled and tripled' in the words of one general manager who really teed off on Brendan today.”
While the GMs believe the penalties will eliminate headshots, Francis said, they also fear it will get rid of the hitting, something that’s already affecting the players.
“I spent the whole week talking to as many players as I could and almost all of them agree that it’s changed the way they play the game. It’s a feeling-out process, there’s some adjustments being made, but these are the growing pains that everybody knew the NHL would have to go through when they were getting tougher on headshots."
But despite unhappiness of some GMs, HNIC’s Elliotte Friedman said, Shanahan “actually has a lot of support, probably more than we realize.”
“A lot of players support it, they like the videos,” he said. “One coach sent the link to all his players this week and said ‘Go watch this.’ Another coach did tell me there’s a new sheriff in town and I told my players 'be ready' because he’s not afraid to suspend."
Friedman, who believes the suspension will be curbed, said Shanahan is finding out the difficulties he faces in his new position.
“One GM said to me that Brendan Shanahan has found out the truth about this job and why it’s the hardest job in sports, because nobody likes you and people come after you." Friedman said. "And they will do everything they can to protect their own interests because jobs are on the line and he’s going to have to weather the storm.”
Corrections and Clarifications
- In an earlier version of this story it was reported that nearly one third of the NHL GMs were not pleased with the length of the suspensions handed out by Brendan Shanahan. In fact, it was only a small group of GMs. Oct. 10, 2011 | 2:53 PM ET