- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Brendan Shanahan never won the Lady Byng Trophy, awarded to an NHL star exhibiting sportsmanship and gentlemanly play.

He was suspended five times during his 21-year, Hall of Fame-bound career.

Shanahan was even suspended for a cross-check he delivered in his Detroit debut. Hi and bye all at once.

For the most part, Shanahan knows he merited his punishments.

“I certainly did some things that deserved suspensions and certainly did some things I wanted to take back,” Shanahan said. “Sometimes with the passion and the speed of the game, things happen. That experience has taught me that I do believe players have respect for one another. Sometimes it’s just the environment of the game, and how things can get away from people a little bit.”

This season, that reasoning sounds like a perfect defense for an accused player about to plead his case to Shanahan.

Shanahan is judge and jury of his former peers in his first year as the NHL’s head disciplinarian, reviewing cases of the scores of rule-breaking players who aim for the head or commit various other infractions. His grace period in his new job lasted about as long as a power-play shift.

He’s become the stern-faced spokesman for the NHL rule book, suspending this preseason a whopping nine players for a total of 31 regular-season games. On the eve of the NHL season, Shanahan has swiftly made his mark as a discipline czar whose wants to protect the best interests of the sport he loves and respects _ even if he loses a popularity contest to make his mark.

Shanahan is not out to make a kinder, gentler NHL.

Just a safer one.

“The focus has gone on the players that we’ve punished, and I understand that,” Shanahan said. “But from my perspective, it’s about the ones we intend to protect. That’s important to me.”

Shanahan, who took over for Colin Campbell, has already revolutionized the job and created a more transparent process with videotaped explanations that should allow the rest of the league, fans and media to form a logical understanding of his decisions.

Take his video (found on video.nhl.com or linked through Twitter.com/NHLShanahan) on Toronto Maple Leafs forward Clarke MacArthur’s preseason plus two regular-season game suspension for hitting Detroit’s Justin Abdelkader in the head.

Shanahan describes the play over video of the act. The video cuts to a written explanation of the rule 48.1 (Illegal check to the head). “A hit resulting in contact with an opponent’s head, where the head is targeted and the principal point of contact, is not permitted.”

He then refers for additional clarification to the rules and regulation video, “that all NHL players were required to watch.” Shanahan explained MacArthur’s hit was not intentional and _ combined with the facts that MacArthur didn’t have a previous history, and Abdelkader wasn’t injured _ meant the penalty would not be as harsh as it would be for a repeat offender.

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