Brendan Shanahan was officially introduced as the new President of the Toronto Maple Leafs this morning. A rumored deal between the former Director of Player Safety and the Leafs came out Wednesday and Shanahan stepped down from his position with the league office on Friday. However, the announcement is not without some controversy. As was raised by Jeff Marek on the excellent Marek vs Wyshynski Podcast, should we be concerned about a conflict of interest due to Shanahan’s role as league disciplinarian and him fielding job offers during the NHL season?
It is a valid question and by no means an accusation that Shanahan was dishonest in his duties as Director of Player Safety. However, going forward, should their be some rule in place that personnel in such sensitive and important roles should not be allowed to field job offers while the current season in progress. In order for such a rule to be enforced, teams would have to be barred from making contact with the Director of Players Safety / NHL personnel regarding potential job offers. A simple “call us during the off-season regarding potential job openings” could be just as damaging as a formal job offer.
While I believe Shanahan carried out his job with the utmost sense of integrity, I believe something needs to be done by the NHL to prevent favoritism or collusion between the department of player safety and the NHL teams.
Without knowing the timeline of Shanahan’s negotiations with the Leafs, there is no way of knowing whether his judgement was affected. What if a ruling would have potentially hurt his future employer? Would there be pressure to go light on the punishment? Determining suspensions is not a one man job, but we cannot ignore that the Direct of Player Safety has a considerable amount of influence on determining the proper punishment.
While it may seem unfair to limit the abilities of some NHL personnel to advance their careers, the NHL should establish rules regarding when job offers may be entertained and make it clear to NHL personnel that they must follow those rules and guidelines if they are to accept a role like Director of Player Safety. Only then can we ensure that the enforcement of NHL rules is done in a fair manner.