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Top Shelf: Quite a shine on Shanny

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

Boredom, the No. 1 obstacle for newly retired folks, isn’t going to be much of a bother for Brendan Shanahan.

This is a guy who did some of his best work during the 2004-05 season, which featured no NHL play, but a bunch of big players from the world of hockey getting together at Shanahan’s behest to help resolve some systemic on-ice issues plaguing the game, while there were actually no games being played.

Clearly the man knows how to make the most of his downtime. The question of “what now” for Shanahan, after announcing his retirement on Tuesday, could be answered in any number of ways.

An old Rangers teammate, Steve Valiquette, already suggested Shanny could be the cure for what ails the utterly tattered NHLPA.

If not executive director or another role within the PA, how about a team exec, following in the footsteps of (somewhat) recently retired peers Steve Yzerman, Mark Messier and Al MacInnis?

If you haven’t got the point yet, Shanahan is simply the kind of person capable of making an impact in whatever area he puts his mind to.

And the game needs this guy. He’s a respected voice with an informed brain, capable of synthesizing information and arriving at his own well thought-out conclusions.

Another important factor; Shanahan straddles generational lines. Hockey is full of respected voices, but too many of them double as storytellers for their grandchildren. Shanahan has a skatehold with all the game’s stakeholders, equally respected by the old guard and guys still playing.

He can even get the admiration of Sean Avery, who simply told the Detroit Free Press that his old Rangers and Wings teammate was “the best.”

Part of the reason Shanahan has a hold of so many ears is the staggering package of stats he’s standing on. The rap sheet reads something like this: 21 NHL seasons with 40-plus goals in six of them, including a 40-goal campaign in 2005-06 as a 37-year-old playing in the ‘new’ NHL he helped create. Shanahan was a first-team all-star in 1994 and 2000 and a second-teamer in 2002. He’s the only player in league history to amass more than 600 goals and 2,000 penalty minutes.

Brendan was also Detroit’s Butch – as in, Goring. Don’t forget it was Shanahan’s arrival early in the 1996-97 season that finally put an underachieving Red Wings team over the top. He went on to win three titles in Detroit, the last coming in 2002, about four months after he won Olympic Gold with Canada. Three years from now, he’ll undoubtedly walk into the Hall of Fame with Canadian Olympic teammate Joe Sakic.

It’s actually interesting to note how many transactions Shanahan has been a part of that directly or indirectly delivered championships, on both sides of the deal.

First, after being drafted second overall by the Devils in 1987, Shanahan signed as a free agent with St. Louis in 1991. Blues defenseman Scott Stevens was excited about the up-and-coming player his team had just landed, until he was awarded to Jersey as compensation for the signing. After getting over the shock, Stevens went on to captain New Jersey to three Cups.

When Detroit acquired Shanny from Hartford (after he demanded the team trade him), it sent a package built around Keith Primeau the other way. While Primeau was never able to put the Whalers or Hurricanes over the top in three seasons, Rod Brind’Amour, the player Carolina got from Philly when it moved Primeau to the Flyers, was. ‘Brindy’ wore the ‘C’ during the Canes’ 2006 Cup triumph.

Even the trade to Hartford – despite not resulting in a championship for St. Louis – was a huge one, as Blues GM Mike Keenan swapped Shanahan for a young defenseman and eventual league MVP named Chris Pronger.

Now it’s time for Shanahan’s next move. His career was always defined by a splendid blend of toughness and touch. He was a quintessential power forward who, thanks to an equally impressive combination of intelligence, vision and respect, has the ability to be a major power broker in his new post-playing life.

We’ll all be anxious to see where and when that starts, with the understanding that Shanny is definitely entitled to let those golden hands idle for a little while first.

Ryan Dixon is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to His blog appears Thursday and his column, Top Shelf, appears Wednesday.

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.


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