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Thursday, April 17, 2014
Commish salutes Brendan Shanahan

By Scott Burnside
ESPN.com

PITTSBURGH -- Count commissioner Gary Bettman among those who will miss Brendan Shanahan, the Hall of Fame player and former head of player safety who recently took on the post of president of hockey operations for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

In an interview with ESPN.com and Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Bettman said Shanahan leaves a lasting legacy with his involvement with the league's player safety department, a position that did not exist until he took it on.

"What I like is that he created it. ... He put in place a series of systems, the department and personnel -- and I believe that we, through the creation of that department, have begun to effectuate a change in the culture of the game in terms of types of hits that are out of the game now. You can show lots of videotape of players not making certain hits that they would have made years ago," Bettman said.

The commissioner called Shanahan's transition from player to executive "phenomenal," adding: "That's a testament to him and the kind of person he is and how hard he works ... he put something in place that transcended him."

Bettman said he hasn't given any thought to who might replace Shanahan long term in the role.

As for any update on the future participation of the NHL in the Olympics, Bettman said the league and players have had zero discussions about what the league's position is going to be moving forward, despite rumblings from some about Olympic-related fatigue.

"You hear some of the clubs suggesting players are tired and worn out," Bettman said. "Particularly you look at teams that had 10 or nine players. (St. Louis Blues coach) Ken Hitchcock was quoted the other day and said they ran out of gas a little bit and they're looking to rejuvenate for the playoffs. It has an impact -- injuries and fatigue."

But while the league and the players were hoping to come to a conclusion on future Olympic participation, as well as a firm plan on the hosting of a World Cup of Hockey -- likely in the fall of 2015 -- within six months or so of the end of the Sochi Games, nothing has been resolved.

"Since we've left Sochi, and I've repeatedly said this, we weren't focused on Olympics anymore. We were focused on the balance of the regular season and playoffs. We haven't given it a moment of thought," Bettman said.