Blast from the past

I saw this photo (below) on Twitter, and sent a link to a buddy who then reminded me of a blog entry I wrote about Shanahan six years ago for the nhl.com. So I went and dug it up. Here it is:

Shanahan The Man

As you’ve probably already seen, Rangers forward Brendan Shanahan was named the inaugural winner of the Mark Messier Leadership Award this week.

Brendan Shanahan truly is a leader. He stands out from the crowd. He’s different. He’s smart, he’s a great athlete, he’s rich, he’s famous, he’s got it all. When he gives interviews, he actually answers the questions he’s asked. He looks the interviewer in the eye and delivers his thoughts in a careful manner. He’s tall, he’s dark and, yes, he’s handsome.

Shanahan.

He’s got that ruggedly handsome look from the 1950s Hollywood.

Maybe when they’re done with George Clooney after Oceans 13, they can throw in Shanahan in number 14. Nobody would miss Clooney.

“A lot of players here go above and beyond in the community, and I do think it’s very important,” Shanahan said when he received the award. “I think about it every day when I’m walking my kids to school, just being a good citizen and being a good person in the community.”

Not your average hockey quote.

In 2001, Shanahan helped Detroit sign Brett Hull by giving money back and later agreed to a smaller contract to fit under the salary cap.

Not your average guy.

With his Gretzky-styled small shoulder pads, and a droopy skating posture, he sometimes looks like Goofy on ice. And no, I wouldn’t say that to his face. After all, this is the only active NHL player with more than 500 career goals and more than 2,000 penalty minutes.

As we all remember, Shanahan invited – and paid their way – the who’s who of the NHL to Toronto in December 2004 for a two-day summit about the game, trying to figure out how the game could be improved. Maybe he got tired of sitting at home while waiting for the lockout to end, but he probably just wanted to get involved. Carry his weight.

In fact, a month after the summit Shanahan was in Sweden with the “World Stars” team of locked out NHLers, so I got to ask him about it. He looked me in the eye, and he delivered a carefully thought out answer about how the American presidential election had been an inspiration for the initiative. Or, even more, he was impressed by the volunteers in the John Kerry campaign he supported.

“I was really impressed by the way ordinary people got involved and handed out flyers and campaigned for their candidate, and I felt that I wanted to get involved,” he said.

And then he hit the shower.

The fact that Shanahan stood his ground and drove the current officiating development even though he wasn’t the ultimate “skilled player” is a testament to his leadership qualities. He is a true class act.

It also turned out that Shanahan’s vision was correct. Hockey did become more fun to watch, and to play.

Last May, Shanahan took on the role of paving the way for the next generation of Canadian players as he captained Team Canada in the World Championship in Latvia, Riga. He was the only one on the roster that was born in the 1960s, and five years older than the second-oldest player on the team, Glen Metropolit from the Swiss league.

Shanahan was there to lead the team, and to pass on the torch to Sidney Crosby and others.

“I am sure they learned how much all the other countries want to beat Canada. A part of it is respect, and a part of it is that there is a swagger to Hockey Canada, and they’re annoyed that even in losing we carry the swagger. For Canada, it’s all or nothing,” Shanahan said.

“It was fun coming to the rink every day with these guys. For me it was a great honor to be a part of it. The heart on this team was so great and I am really honored that I got the chance to meet these guys at this point in my career, and get to know them before I am buying tickets to watch them.”

Sure. But for now, we’ll gladly stand in line to buy tickets to see Brendan Shanahan.

Shanahan. Sha-na-han. Man, even the name’s cool.

How does that make you feel?