Thursday, October 06, 2011


For Eli 10.2 and myself, today is one of the best days of the year. It's the start of the NHL season.

The NHL and the NFL are an interesting study in contrasts when it comes to how they're handling blows to the head. The NFL has "cracked down" on blows to the head, but I don't know anyone who understands the new rules. No one short of Einstein understands how the hits are being officiated--not the players, not the coaches, not even the officials themselves.

In short, it's a huge mess--players are angry, everyone's confused, and the NFL is levying big fines.

No one, however, has been suspended.

In contrast, take a look at the NHL. Last season, they had the same mess on their hands. Colin Campbell was in charge of disciplining players, and he was totally inconsistent and downright baffling at times.

In the off-season, the NHL appointed three-time Stanley Cup winner Brendan Shanahan as senior vice president of hockey operations and player safety. Shanahan, in only a few weeks, has taken a very murky issue and made it totally clear. He's done this by explaining, in detail, his disciplinary decisions on every questionable hit in the pre-season. These decisions have been accompanied with video, to make things even more clear.

In the NFL, you deliver a crushing blow to the head, and you can expect a fine. In the NHL, you're now looking at an eight-game suspension, at a minimum. That's the bar that Shanahan has set.

Now, if you're thinking this is too difficult an issue to make clear, here's something you should watch. The NHL released a video yesterday demonstrating clean hits under the new rules. Shanahan narrates, and even I know what's allowed after watching this: hitting the right way.

You may think this is a sports take, but really, it's a communications take. Shanahan is a model for clear and consistent communication, and his example is ideal for sports and business and life itself, really. When things are explained so clearly, there just won't be many misunderstandings.

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