In his first decision as NHL Senior Vice President of Player Safety, Brendan Shanahan suspended Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond of the Calgary Flames for five games because of an illegal hit delivered to Vancouver Canucks forward Matt Clackson in last night's preseason meeting between the two teams.
Following the suspension, Shanahan released a video on the NHL.com website explaining all of the factors he considered when considering the punishment for the play. Breaking the play down in slow motion, and describing the play over a video clip, Shanahan explained that Clackson had his back to Letourneau-Leblond before the contact, Leblond had time to avoid or minimize the check, and Leblond followed through hard and high when finishing his check. Furthermore, Shanahan provided the relevant rule (41.1) that was broken, and explained that Leblond's previous suspensions played a part in his suspension.
The video can be found here:
The amount of clarity in this video should be commended. For the first time ever, the NHL and their discipline staff have provided fans and players with an inner-look at what constitutes a suspension and all of the reasoning that went into it-- there is no ambiguity here, no reading between the lines, no guesswork involved. And that is nothing but a good thing.
As it turns out, we wrote an article last year that called for this exact type of thing. On November 5, 2010, in the wake of the Joe Thornton suspension, here is an excerpt of what we said (naturally, we encourage you to read the whole thing):
The League is consistently at the forefront of the social media revolution in the sporting world, by far the most privy to these things than every other sport league in the United States of America. They do an excellent job of disseminating information to their customers over the internet, a direct line straight into the vein of fanbases everywhere.
Which makes this proposal a fairly easy one to implement. The infrastructure is already there, the track already laid. All it takes is a conductor to get the train moving out of the station.
The idea is simple-- a video of suspensions, complete with audio commentary throughout, explaining why each incident was suspendable according to the current NHL Rulebook.
With all of the confusion surrounding the Wheel of Justice over the years, this would be a great way for the NHL to directly explain to their consumer, as well as the organizations effected by supplementary discipline, why a certain ruling was given out. Clarity breeds understanding, and understanding for the players and fans can never be considered a detriment to the game. A minute long video breaking down the play, from the rules to the methods involved that warranted discipline, can only be a good thing for the League.
Now we're not claiming to be the source of inspiration here-- it's entirely possible the NHL had this in their back pocket for awhile now and, with the promotion of Shanahan, found it was a perfect time to implement this policy. The technology was present and a fresh start in the discipline department allowed them to roll it out without giving off the impression that what they were doing beforehand was lacking.
But it's a rare day indeed when you see something come to fruition that you've been asking for without being a direct part of the process, and an extremely pleasant day at that.
There's no official word on whether or not the video explaining suspensions will be a part of the suspension discussion going forward, but one has to figure this would be an excellent addition to the League both from a PR and player safety perspective. It provides a constant explanation of what is right and wrong, a fluid dialogue between the League and those playing the game-- a dialogue that would make it clear this is what they expect and why they expect it.
Kudos, NHL. Kudos.