Brendan Shanahan did not create the weekend’s Stanley Cup freak show. He’s just one of many enablers.
You can start with governors, general managers and head coaches who employ and ice the meatheads and create a culture where it’s okay to target the head of a player who has missed time with a concussion. They are foremost among the enablers and abettors. Look, too, at commissioner Gary Bettman, whose silence proves again that he follows a financial compass, not a moral compass, and fans apparently dig this stuff.
But it’s also on the players themselves, who have shown yet again that they are incapable of self-policing. These guys want to have it both ways; let us take care of the high-sticking and nefarious stuff, they say, yet at the same time anybody who does deliver a clean hit ends up getting pummelled. If you’re going to get jumped by Kevin Bieksa, whatever you do, why not aim for the head?
Conventional wisdom among the hockey intelligentsia is that this all started with the light $2,500 fine that Shanahan levied against the Nashville Predators’ Shea Weber for attempting to grind the head of the Detroit Red Wings’ Henrik Zetterberg into the boards in Game 1 of their series. That would be in keeping with the excuse-making that has become a staple of NHL culture.