Brendan Shanahan showed up at the NHL’s New York headquarters Thursday afternoon for a series of interviews with the NHL Network, NHL.com and the NHL Hour with Commissioner Gary Bettman.
The next time he shows up here it will be for work.
Shanahan, the only player in NHL history with 600 goals and 2,000 penalty minutes, has accepted a position to be the League’s Vice President, Hockey and Business Development. He will work alongside Bettman, Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, Chief Operating Officer John Collins and Senior Executive V.P. of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell and his job description remains open-ended.
“In a broad sense, I think obviously I am going to be another voice in the hockey ops, but at the same time people like John Collins and Gary and Bill are going to allow me and teach me the business of hockey,” Shanahan told NHL.com. “What I was excited about in their offer to bring me on board is that it was wide open for me. There was not going to be any room with a closed door and I would be given an opportunity to see and learn. As time goes by there will be some days where my role is more hockey specific and some days where my role is more business or marketing specific.”
Shanahan officially announced his retirement after 21 NHL seasons on Nov. 17. At that time there was speculation that he could take a role with the NHL Players’ Association or even inside an organization’s front office. Shanahan, though, said he was never contacted by the NHL Players’ Association for a position.
“I appreciated some of my former teammates saying they’d like to see me in that role, but the reality is I wasn’t approached,” he said.
Shanahan added that some teams did call his agent about certain roles, but he did not explore those opportunities.
“I have been a player for 21 years and I think there is still a lot to learn, even on the hockey side of it. I have seen some of their operations at the war room, but I have never seen it in full action on a Saturday night. Again, I would be naive to think all my learning is just going to be on the business side of it. The hockey ops side is something I am going to learn a lot from, but I have also been brought in here to give my experiences and my opinions on a lot of things and to weigh in where I am needed.” – Brendan Shanahan
Working for the League is a perfect fit not only because his family lives in Manhattan, but because his new position allows him to learn more about the business of hockey while giving him the option of offering an his opinion on a slew of topics.
“I have been a player for 21 years and I think there is still a lot to learn, even on the hockey side of it,” Shanahan said. “I have seen some of their operations at the war room, but I have never seen it in full action on a Saturday night. Again, I would be naive to think all my learning is just going to be on the business side of it. The hockey ops side is something I am going to learn a lot from, but I have also been brought in here to give my experiences and my opinions on a lot of things and to weigh in where I am needed.”
It is somewhat ironic that Shanahan, who on his record as a player had 12 incidents with supplementary discipline, will now be working on the same team as Campbell and the Hockey Operations. It’s actually a part of his job he’s particularly excited about because it gives him an opportunity to inform the players, a lot of whom are his former teammates, exactly how the NHL operates, including when it comes to supplementary discipline.
“If I do my job here as I hope to, I will stay in communication with the players, my former teammates, and sort of show them what is going on behind the curtain,” he said. “I had a lot of preconceived notions of how things were done by the people that were doing it until I saw it for myself firsthand. I think that sharing some more information with the players and with the coaches, and them giving us feedback, is really the only way we’re going to improve.”
Shanahan was a member of the League’s competition committee and he helped lead the game coming out of the labor stoppage that forced the cancellation of the 2004-05 season.
His “Shanahan Summit” brought together some of the best and brightest minds of the game from both sides of the player/management debate. A number of philosophical and rules changes came about, leading to the way the game is played today, from tighter enforcement of obstruction-type fouls to the trapezoid behind the goals.
Shanahan, who at the time of his interview with NHL.com hadn’t yet seen where he will be working, knows it will be an adjustment to work in this side of the game.
“But obviously if you want to be a professional athlete for a long period of time you learn discipline and you learn work ethic,” he said. “I take a great deal of pride in anything I do and put a lot of work and thought into anything I do. I don’t like to do anything halfway and I also learned during some of the work stoppages that I had in my career and also last year waiting half a season before I signed with a team (New Jersey) that I like to be busy, I don’t like sitting around the house.”
As for where this job will eventually lead him, well, Shanahan has no clue.
The open-endedness is part of the fun, part of the intrigue.
“I learned as a player that you take care of the work that needs to be done that day, that practice, that game, that shift,” he said. “You set goals for yourself but you never look ahead at the expense of the job you are doing that day. That’s how I feel with this job. I have a big job to do right now and a lot of learning and I want to get started on that.”
It also allows him to officially put to bed any talk of a comeback.
“I don’t know if I can say I miss (playing). I think I enjoyed it is probably a better way of putting it than I miss it,” Shanahan said. “I feel like I put everything I had into it and that I feel resolved in that I probably had a better career than I had hoped for.”