SUN Hockey Pool

NHL makes great choice in hiring John Shannon

AL STRACHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:25 AM ET

The National Hockey League could not have made a better choice for its new vice-president of broadcasting.

Finally, after a series of Americans -- who were capable in some areas, but not necessarily hockey -- the league has hired John Shannon, who until two weeks ago was the head man at Leafs TV.

Shannon holds the distinction of having twice been fired by Hockey Night in Canada for wanting to do things properly, and also has had hockey broadcasting experience at the club level, both with the Leafs and the Minnesota North Stars.

If there is a more respected man in the hockey broadcasting industry, it's hard to think of who it would be. Finally, the league has someone in place who can give American broadcasters some direction.

In most cases, the American teams would embrace insights with open arms, but for too long, there has been no one to provide those insights.

At this stage of its development, the NHL is in dire need of an upgrade of its broadcasts and there is no one who can fill that need better than Shannon.

Looking back: A few final thoughts about the Olympics:

- Many North American observers suggest that Olympic participation by the NHL was a failure because it didn't create hockey audiences on this side of the ocean.

Therefore, they say, it will not help the league's marketing, which was the NHL's primary intention.

First of all, the NHL's primary intention was to stay out of the Olympics. The league acceded to an NHL Players' Association demand as part of the negotiations for the collective bargaining agreement.

Secondly, the NHL is an international entity. Support for the game in Europe is almost as important as support for the game here.

Anyone who travels to Europe notices fans wearing NHL gear, and Europeans have expensive NHL cable packages, just as Canadians do.

By boosting interest in Europe, the Olympic experience was a plus.

- It was nice to get all the answers from so many observers after Canada lost 2-0 to Russia with one of the goals going into an empty net.

The solution was clear, so many analysts told us. Russia had sent all their young scorers; Canada hadn't.

How stupid of the Canadian selectors to overlook that point.

And in its next game, this dynamic, high-scoring young Russian team managed how many goals? Try zero.

And in the next game? Zero again.

We didn't see too many articles praising the Russian selection process after that.

- Now that the CBC has lost the rights to cover the most important Olympics in Canadian history -- Vancouver in 2010 -- the Corp has announced it will bid strongly for 2014.

That's nice. But industry observers insist there was no reason to lose the 2010 rights. Had the right people been in place, it wouldn't have happened.

Still, we can take solace in the fact that if we're around in 2014, the national network will bring us games from Kabul, or some such backwater, with prime events occurring in the middle of the night over here.

After 2006 in Europe and 2010 in North America, the 2014 Olympics almost certainly will go back to Asia.

- The league imposed a trading ban during the Olympic break. Apparently, it also imposed an unannounced integrity ban.

If the league is going to participate in the Olympics, it should do so properly and devote a decent amount of time to it -- including time for the players to recuperate.

Instead, it allowed some players to skip their first game back, a direct contradiction of the league's own rule requiring every team to utilize its best lineup.

It might not matter to some teams, but how do you think they felt in Edmonton, where the Oilers are battling the San Jose Sharks for a playoff sport, when the Detroit Red Wings played without five Swedish Olympians and virtually handed the Sharks two points?

- Athletes get criticized for resorting to platitudes, but when one of them tells the truth, he gets criticized for that too.

Mike Modano simply was enunciating the views held by his teammates when he unloaded on USA Hockey for not doing a better job.

In the previous two Olympics, the NHLPA set up offices on site to help NHL players with matters like tickets, tour packages and hotel rooms.

This time, such matters were left to the various federations, and while Hockey Canada excelled, USA Hockey did not.

The grinding schedule that was inflicted upon the players has been well documented. It wasn't too much to expect that these players, who were receiving a relative pittance for their contribution, could have had some help in making the experience an enjoyable one for their families. And that's what Modano said.

He called for changes in USA Hockey and they'll probably be forthcoming.

The whisper around the league is that for the 2010 Olympics, the co-ordination between Team USA and USA Hockey will be the responsibility of Chris Chelios.

He has long been an Olympic advocate and he more than supports Modano's views.

But for once, he didn't make any public statements, thereby fuelling further speculation that he wants to have a key role in USA Hockey and doesn't want to offend those with whom he might be working.

OGLING CURVES

In a typically unnecessary move that represents nothing more than face-saving, the league has now decided that it will measure the sticks of all the players involved in a shootout. Players had been using illegal sticks in shootouts all season long, but so what? Was there any evidence of the shooters having an unfair advantage? Was anybody getting hurt?

No, it's just that the league was embarrassed when it was pointed out that it had no rule to prevent illegal sticks during shootouts.

So now, a referee will stand at the boards and measure every stick prior to the shot.

Wouldn't it be simpler just to follow the advice of most of the league's great scorers, past and present, and do away with the curve-measurement rule?

When it happened to the Philadelphia Flyers this week, Peter Forsberg was taken by surprise.

"I didn't get the memo on that one," he said. "I was lucky I had a legal stick. Why don't they measure the sticks before the game? I don't like it when they do it on the ice."


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