Former NHL defenseman, head coach, and for the past 12 years, Director of Hockey Operations and chief NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell is in hot water this week. Former NHL official Dean Warren has filed a complaint against his termination to the Ontario Labour Relations Board, and he believes Campbell had a lot to do with it.
Angry emails by Campbell to other NHL executives are starting to be released online. The other day, Yahoo Sports, via a blogger named Tyler Dellow, analyzed some of them, saying they “reveal the candid, petty assessments by an NHL executive on the league’s on-ice officials’ performances.” More than that, they pose possible conflict of interest issues and bias against certain players.
Dellow narrowed down some of the scrubbed out player names from Campbell emails dating back to 2006 and for Boston Bruins fans, the most alarming email allegedly involves a (Florida) Panthers-Bruins game from February 24, 2007, when three minor penalties were called on one player.
The opposing player who drew one of them was called “that little fake artist.” The penalized player was his own son Gregory Campbell, and the “fake artist” was Bruins center Marc Savard. Warren, who called the penalty on the “biggest faker going,” was said by Campbell to have fallen for Savard’s act and as a result needed to go, or at least not allowed to referee any more of the (redacted) “club’s” games.
Three years later, on March 7, 2010, Matt Cooke of the Pittsburgh Penguins cold-clocked Savard. Having a reputation as a head hunter didn’t apparently matter to Campbell. He could find no NHL rule violations by Cooke and therefore did not suspend or even fine him, to the shock of the hockey world.
To Campbell, it was just a simple shoulder-to-head hit. I guess you could say that based on the newly released emails, he was too biased based on the aforementioned Savard incident to see that the Bruins center was BLINDSIDED by Cooke after taking a shot at the net. So when you’re blindsided near the boards, it’s a boarding penalty, but if it happens in the middle of the ice, that’s perfectly legal and not punishable? Wow.
Savard made a brief comeback in last year’s playoffs but is still suffering from that hit with post-concussion syndrome and has yet to play this season. The least Campbell can do now is apologize to Savard for letting Cooke completely off the hook and not suspending or fining him at all, and admit that he let his personal dislike of the injured Bruin get in the way of hockey justice.
And while Colin Campbell’s at it, he should apologize to the Bruins for rescinding the suspension of Carolina’s Scott Walker a couple of playoffs ago for his cheap shot at (now former Bruins player) Aaron Ward, which allowed him to keep playing and eventually score the series-winning goal against the Bruins.
This is the same Colin Campbell that upheld a one-game suspension to Milan Lucic on a hit to an opponent, even though he said it was not clear that his glove (on his hockey stick) or stick alone hit the opponent in the head. I go could on all day about Campbell’s seemingly arbitrary and inconsistent rulings on what is suspension-worthy and what wasn’t, but I’ll spare you more frustration.
One more important point on the Campbell emails. It’s one thing to be upset for bad calls against your own son. That’s understandable as a father. But to let those feelings and opinions about the referees involved in those calls be known via email is stupid at best and at worst, a conflict of interest.
Through Wednesday, there was still no direct reaction on Campbell from the Bruins, but the NHL’s media department, and deputy commissioner Bill Daly in particular, had this to say about Campbell in an email to me on Tuesday: “As Senior Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations for the NHL, Colin Campbell is required to analyze and assess, candidly and directly, the performance of every member of the Hockey Operations Department—including those of all on-ice officials. He also is required to execute the direction of the 30 Clubs with regard to standards of on-ice rule enforcement as well as on-ice player conduct.”
He continued: “In the execution of those rigorous and challenging duties over 12 seasons, Colin has been thorough, thoughtful, professional and scrupulous; his integrity has been impeccable, and he has no role whatsoever in matters pertaining to games in which his son plays. Colin Campbell has the complete confidence and support of the National Hockey League, as do all members of the Hockey Operations Department.”
Isn’t that cute. Campbell technically “has no role” in games his son plays. Yet, he apparently has opinions that could, once given to director of officiating Terry Gregson and others, influence who officiates games his son plays in, in my opinion.
Gregory Campbell is, ironically, now a forward for the Bruins. Will his father change his tune about Boston players now? Will he be able to even do his job now that his impartially has been questioned based on his own past writings?
Time will tell, but if he can’t, and GMs, officials and players around the NHL start bad-mouthing him due to the fallout of these and perhaps other revelations, he should be forced to resign. Twelve years at this thankless job is long enough anyway.