Angry Shanahan says refs are biased against Jagr

Updated: February 1, 2007, 11:44 AM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Brendan Shanahan isn't the captain of the New York Rangers, he's just the guy who sticks up for him.

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Shanahan ripped NHL officials Wednesday night after the Rangers' 2-1 home loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs because of what he feels is prejudiced officiating against captain Jaromir Jagr.

"I don't know what the deal is," an angry Shanahan said. "Guys hit him late, guys hit him high, guys hook his hands. He doesn't complain. He just goes out and plays and plays and plays. The referees just seem to have a different set of rules about the way people get to play against him.

"Not since [Slava] Fetisov came over from Russia have I ever seen a star player get ignored by the referees, and I know the reason why they were ignoring him back then."

Jagr was reluctant to take over the Rangers' captaincy before this season. He was the natural choice to replace Mark Messier, especially after the Czech forward set team records for goals and points last season.

And the transition became easier when Shanahan brought his outspoken nature and leadership qualities to the Rangers' locker room after his departure over the summer from the Detroit Red Wings. The soft-spoken Jagr would much rather do his talking with skilled play.

"I don't know what the deal is. Guys hit him late, guys hit him high, guys hook his hands. He doesn't complain. He just goes out and plays and plays and plays. The referees just seem to have a different set of rules about the way people get to play against him."
-- Brendan Shanahan

"I think criticism is a great form of adjustment for us," Mike Murphy, the NHL's senior vice president of hockey operations told The Associated Press in a phone interview from the league's "war room" in Toronto. "The more honest criticism directed at us helps us watch our department close to make sure we do things right.

"Criticism isn't something we run from."

Shanahan took a large role in getting the NHL to tighten up its rules on clutching and grabbing once the lockout was settled before last season. During the year off, Shanahan formed a panel of hockey experts who made several recommendations that the league adopted.

Now he wants to see those rules applied. Toronto was 1-for-6 on the power play Wednesday; New York converted one of only two chances.

"I didn't think the game was called any different than games are called every night," Murphy said. "Jagr is a player that does get identified by the other team. I know the Leafs used Hal Gill against him, and Hal is a big strong guy. He is able to use his size and strength to eliminate Jagr in many different ways.

"They know Jagr is a key performer on the Rangers, but teams are allowed to play against him in a legal fashion."

"Criticism isn't something we run from."
-- Mike Murphy, NHL senior vice president of hockey operations

The Rangers' comeback hopes were dashed when Matt Cullen was sent off for holding with 1:25 remaining. Shanahan didn't dispute that call.

"I just have a tough time sitting there throughout the game, especially in the second period, watching the calls against one of the best players in the league. The NBA didn't let people grab [Michael] Jordan by the waist every time he went up for a jump shot. Jags has to play through that all season long," Shanahan said.

"It's not just tonight's refs, it's every night. I have played with other superstar players and they get a whole lot more respect than this guy, and I am trying to eliminate the reasons why that's the way it is."

Jagr had finished speaking to reporters when Shanahan unloaded. Rangers coach Tom Renney showed surprise when told of the remarks, but didn't dispute the claims.

"You've got to wonder," Renney said. "I just watched 11 clips where the opposition held sticks, held jerseys, had faceoff interference, cross-checks. What did I miss? I think that sums it up.

"I'm not suggesting they didn't miss a few on us, too. It was one of those games where it would have been nice if we could have decided the outcome."

Murphy agreed that calls are missed in every game, but said he thought Wednesday's contest featured a "strong standard of rule enforcement."

"Our referees call penalties if players commit fouls by hooking, holding and interfering in ways that cross the standard of enforcement," Murphy said. "I think players that have the puck more like [Peter] Forsberg, [Mats] Sundin and Jagr get hooked and held more because they have the puck more.

"I don't think that's something I noticed tonight and I don't think it happens on a daily basis."


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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