VANCOUVER – A new man will be handing out the discipline in the NHL.
Colin Campbell is stepping down as the league’s head disciplinarian and is being replaced by former player Brendan Shanahan.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman made the announcement Wednesday, saying the move was part of a reorganization of the league’s head office.
“Both Colin and I believe it’s time to take a fresh look at the standards that we use,” Bettman told a news conference prior to Game 1 of the NHL Stanley Cup final.
“If we are going to move to harsher discipline, that change needs to send a clear message and we think it would probably be best to do on a clean slate.”
There had been some criticism that there were inconsistencies in the suspensions Campbell had handed out this season, especially in the area of head shots.
Bettman praised Campbell’s efforts and said the change in roles was not a demotion.
“It would be unfair, inappropriate and simply wrong to suggest this reorgnaizaiton in any way is a diminution of Colin or his role,” said Bettman.
Campbell will continue in his job of director of hockey operations.
“I approached Gary back in March about supplemental discipline, and it was time to have a fresh look and fresh eyes at the process of discipline,” said Campbell, who had held the job since 1998.
Shanahan, who won three Stanley Cups while playing with the Detroit Red Wings, said his taking over Campbell’s job won’t necessarily result in longer suspensions.
“I can’t promise you how I will view each individual situation,” Shanahan said. “I do love the physical aspect of hockey and it is a very difficult and fine balance to keep that in the game to allow players to play on their toes but at the same time know what they can and can not do.
“If I feel all the criteria of a player trying to injure another player has been met, then I am going to have to act. I can’t promise you what was once a three (game suspension) is now a seven. I will promise you when I do make those decisions, I will try and make my thought process, and everything that went into that thought process, very clear and very visible to the entire hockey world.”
Shanahan will take over his new duties next season.
There had been concerns raised about Campbell’s impartiality in handing out discipline since his son Gregory plays for the Boston Bruins.
The Bruins are playing the Vancouver Canucks for the Stanley Cup.
Mike Murphy, the NHL vice-president of hockey operations, had already been put in charge of disciplinary matters for the final.
Campbell denied his son’s involvement in the sport affected his decision.
“I think the fact that 13 years of this, it’s an all encompassing job,” he said. “It’s hard to do other aspects of your job.”
Shanahan will also head a new department of player safety and hockey operations.
Bettman said the department will be responsible for developing rules to better protect players without changing the fundamental nature of the game. It will also look at issues of equipment safety.
Campbell broke into the NHL in 1974-’75 with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He played for four other teams before retiring after he spent the 1984-’85 season with the Red Wings.
Campbell entered the coaching ranks the next season and spent five years as an assistant with Detroit. He was hired as an assistant coach with the New York Rangers in 1991-92 and later spent parts of four seasons as a head coach with the club before being fired midway through the 1997-98 season.
Campbell was named senior vice-president and director of hockey operations in July 1998. He took over from Brian Burke, who left to become general manager of the Vancouver Canucks.
Shanahan was named the NHL’s vice-president of hockey and business development in December 2009, less than three weeks after ending his 22-year playing career.
He worked with Campbell after being hired, providing insights from a player’s standpoint into trends that emerged.
On other issues, Bettman said no decision has been made on league realignment following the announcement the Atlanta Thrashers will relocate to Winnipeg next season.
Atlanta played in the Southeast Division of the Eastern Conference. Winnipeg will remain in the Southeast Division for next year.
“I think we’ll wind up moving towards a slightly more balanced schedule to accommodate the variety of issues I’ve heard so far from clubs,” Bettman said.
Bettman was asked about the chances of an NHL team going to Quebec City.
“I’m not going to raise expectations,” said Bettman.
“At the present time, I don’t have a franchise we’re looking to relocate. And, as I said, we’re not planning on expanding.”