Loiselle is Doomed to Fail… and It’s Not His Fault

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I was happy to hear that Claude Loiselle landed on his feet after being let go by the Toronto Maple Leafs as assistant general manager. He has taken Brendan Shanahan’s old job as VP of the NHL’s Department of Player Safety.

Claude is a good guy and a good hockey man. He deserves to continue working in a prominent place in the game.

Unfortunately, he is doomed to fail in his new job, just as all of his predecessors have before him. It won’t be Loiselle’s fault, either.

Presuming the department’s name matches its true mission statement (i.e., making the NHL game safer for its participants), it seems destined to perpetually fall sort of its purpose. The current system does little more than pay reactive lip service to safety.

First of all, the tail still wags the dog where hockey equipment manufacturers are concerned. The equipment is a lethal weapon and the NHL still refuses to pressure the manufacturers to widely introduce alternatives that are safer for opposing players while still protective for the wearer.

On a related note, players leaguewide will continue to gladly sacrifice protection in the name of comfort. Teams invest millions of dollars in these players, yet do not insist they take some simple precautions to reduce some of the injury risk. As such, we will continue to see dangling mouthguards, improperly worn helmets, players who eschew skate cut-resistant materials and not wearing neck protection, etc.

Even more importantly, no one in the NHL has the jam to actually put into the rulebook — and then enforce — standards to effectively deal with issues such as charging and contact with goaltenders. Meanwhile, the scourge of diving is going to continue unabated. There are no effective deterrents in place and the ones that were on the books (such as a suspension for three diving infractions) never got enforced. Do you really think a $1,000 fine or whatever is going to be a deterrent? While, we’re at it, I’m still waiting to see Soupy’s “diver list”.

This is what we WILL see: It’s still going to look like a yard sale with players’ equipment all over the ice. There will be suspensions for high sticking, hits from behind, slashing, egregious head shots, etc. and yet they will continue unabated. Every time a hearing is called, the coach of the offending player will talk about how “he’s a good kid and isn’t a dirty player” and the team will gripe that whatever suspension the player received was too harsh.

Rule book reform is much like a famous quote by Mark Twain: “Everyone talks about the weather, but no one does anything about it.” The NHL is far from the only league that falls far short of needed reforms to tackle the game’s real problems. The same thing happens in Europe and other leagues, leaving on-ice officials and league discipline offices with a mess.

I wish Claude all the best in his new job. He’s been put in a damned-if-he-does-and-damned-if-he-doesn’t spot before even he moves his stuff into his new office. Well, at least working in Toronto for four years helped acclimate him to that aspect of the role.

********* Paul Stewart holds the distinction of being the first U.S.-born citizen to make it to the NHL as both a player and referee. On March 15, 2003, he became the first American-born referee to officiate in 1,000 NHL games.

Today, Stewart is an officiating and league discipline consultant for the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) and serves as director of hockey officiating for the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC).

The longtime referee heads Officiating by Stewart, a consulting, training and evaluation service for officials. Stewart also maintains a busy schedule as a public speaker, fund raiser and master-of-ceremonies for a host of private, corporate and public events. As a non-hockey venture, he is the owner of Lest We Forget.

In addition to his blogs for HockeyBuzz every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, Stewart writes a column every Wednesday for the Huffington Post.This post originally appeared on www.hockeybuzz.com and we thank them for permission to rebroadcast it here.

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