CALGARY - Let’s give credit where and when it’s due.
In this case, it’s over the suspensions handed by the NHL to Calgary Flames forward Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond and Philadelphia Flyers forward Jody Shelley Thursday.
Not so much for the banishments handed down — both received the rest of the pre-season, while Shelley had five regular-season games tacked onto his sentence and Letourneau-Leblond received one — but for finally having some openness as to how those decisions were made.
Whether you agree with the suspensions isn’t the issue, but the explanations from NHL senior vice-president of player safety Brendan Shanahan and the accompanying video for all to see on the league’s website is the bold step.
Admit it, we’ve all sat there and wondered how the league came to its conclusions in the past.
Colin Campbell genuinely wanted to do the right thing each and every time, but rarely got his message out.
Therefore, it was easy to second-guess him.
It was only in the last couple of years Campbell, the former lord of discipline, even would be quoted.
That’s why the step taken by the league and Shanahan is such an improvement.
Agree with his proclamation or not, you can’t deny Shanahan didn’t ensure you know why he made the decision.
In both instances, video was shown in both full speed and slow motion and Shanahan detailed how the perpetrator was in the wrong and gave the exact rule broken.
In regards to Letourneau-Leblond’s hit on Vancouver Canucks forward Matt Clackson, Shanahan said: “Letourneau-Leblond took a direct route toward Clackson, hit him squarely from behind into the boards and drove through the check high and hard. Clackson’s back was turned toward Letourneau-Leblond well before the contact, requiring that Letourneau-Leblond avoid or minimize the check. He did neither.”
You can’t disagree when the man is saying that while showing it on video.
Moreover, Shanahan admitted the past history — Letourneau-Leblond was suspended once last season and Shelley was suspended twice — was a factor.
To top it off, the fact Shelley’s hit injured Toronto Maple Leafs Darryl Boyce came into the equation. Boyce suffered a broken nose, although he finished the game.
In retrospect, it’s not like we’re talking about new technology needed here, just using it in a progressive manner.
Plus, it puts even more focus on the players committing these acts.
Now, every fan, if they can’t see those hits often enough while watching the steady loops of highlights, can break things down on their computers.
Sure, it means people will waste even more time when they should be working and Shanahan will receive more air time than any of the Kardashian sisters, but that mass media just may get the message across even louder to the players.
Letourneau-Leblond departed the Saddledome before the announcement came down, but was contrite in saying: “What happens, I have to live with it.
“I’m just happy Matt Clackson was not hurt,” added Letourneau-Leblond, who forfeits US$6,402.44 in salary. “I respect the way he plays. He’s a tough kid, plays hard. I’ve played against him in the past and it’s always been respectful in the past.
“It’s a tough game, but that’s not what you want to happen.”
It’s not what we want to happen, either.
Maybe showing more details will help it stop.
Now the next tests are for Shanahan to sit and explain why a suspension doesn’t occur in some instances and ensure acts from top-level players are given the same rough treatment.
The game will be better for it.