The head displinarian is sending a clear message to players that hits to the head will seldom be tolerated.
Brendan Shanahan proving to be NHL's head teacher
The most visible man during the NHL pre-season has been Brendan Shanahan and not Sidney Crosby, a revealing fact about what holds the hockey world's attention going into the 2011/12 season: hits to the head.
While Crosby, the Pittsburgh Penguins star and arguably the league's top player, works on his recovery from a concussion caused by a pair of hits last season, Shanahan, the league's head disciplinarian, has been doling out suspensions for blows to the head since pre-season started on September 19.
And Shanahan, a former player who served five suspensions during a 21-year career, has a novel way of announcing the bans - appearing on videos in which he explains in detail, with replays of the hit, why it deserved extra punishment.
During this pre-season, hardly a day has passed without a new video. Nine players have been hit with 31 games worth of suspensions for incidents in exhibition games. Together, they will forfeit more than US$70,000 (Dh2.56 million) in salary.
"Change is always hard, but what we want is for the number of head injuries to come down," Shanahan said.
The only significant off-season rule change was the broadening of Rule 48 on head blows. Previously, calls were made only for blindside or lateral hits to the head. This season, they cover all hits in which "the head is the principal point of contact".
The league's general managers recommended the change amid a heated debate over head shots.
"I think he's sending a clear message that hits to the head and illegal blows aren't going to be tolerated," Josh Gorges, the Montreal defenceman, said. "If guys haven't realised that by now it's their own fault.… It's a good move and hopefully it will save some guys from serious injuries."