For many years the NHL’s Department of Player Safety — the people who come up with new safety measures and dole out supplemental discipline when needed — have been the bane of hockey fans’ existence. Between the fact that what constitutes supplemental discipline and how much should a player should receive has never made much sense, some of the safety measures that have been instituted haven’t made the game any safer.
For example, Nashville's Shea Weber was only fined $2,500 for slamming the head of Detroit's Henrik Zetterberg into the glass during the 2012 playoffs. Weber should've been suspended for potentially seriously injuring Zetterberg. This is just one glaring example of what's been incredibly frustrating for hockey fans. Many have called for the Department of Player Safety to fix a broken system and make the right decisions when it comes to suspensions and rule changes.
Well, the league has heard your complaints and things are about to change.
On Thursday, the NHL announced they have made two new hires within the Department of Player Safety who will work directly under Brendan Shanahan — ex-New York Ranger and Hockey Hall of Famer Brian Leetch and ex-scout for the Philadelphia Flyers Patrick Burke. Burke is the son of Brian, who is the ex-general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs and a current scout for the Anaheim Ducks. He’s also widely known for starting the You Can Play Project, a non-profit organization that promotes equality throughout sports, regardless of sexual orientation.
For once, the NHL got it right. Both men have grown up around the game in one fashion or another and are highly regarded by not only their peers, but by the hockey community as a whole. They should excel with their knowledge of the sport, the players, the difficulties that surround them and the best remedies to make the game safer while maintaining the integrity of the sport.
The guys in the Department of Player Safety are in a no-win position. They do the best job that they can and they’re not going to please everyone with the decisions they make. And yes, they absolutely botch up some decisions with regards to suspensions. If you have followed me on Twitter long enough, you’ll know I’m one of the first people who rips into them every time they make a bad call or come up with a stupid rule that does nothing to make the game safer. Having said that, I have the utmost faith Brian and Patrick will do everything in their power to fix what is wrong within the Department of Player Safety.
I sincerely wish Brian and Patrick the best of luck with their new positions within the league and hope they stick around for a while.