If you’ve ever thought that NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell might’ve had it out for your team regarding punishment or handled the Marc Savard-Matt Cooke scenario in a highly-questionable manner considering Cooke wasn’t suspended for his hit on Savard, consider today to be your day of vindication.
Tyler Dellow of mc79hockey.com has uncovered e-mails between Campbell and former head of NHL officiating Stephen Walkom that outline how Campbell gets in Walkom’s ear in situations when infractions against his son Gregory (then of the Florida Panthers, now of the Boston Bruins) he found to be wrong.
We also find out that Colin Campbell doesn’t think very highly of Bruins forward Marc Savard, a dislike that might have roots going back to the days when Campbell coached the New York Rangers and Savard was a young forward he coached. There’s almost too much information here to quote and share with you, but we’ll give you the juiciest bits to chew on. We really can’t recommend highly enough going to Dellow’s site and reading the entire piece.
At the heart of the matter here is Colin Campbell and Stephen Walkom discussing the officiating work of (now former) referee Dean Warren. Campbell was incensed with Warren’s work and sought to get Warren fired for his inconsistent officiating and was in the ear of Walkom to let him know his thoughts on how he’s doing. Warren was fired and challenged the NHL in court over his firing saying his work with the NHLOA lead to his dismissal. If you’re wondering how these e-mails were available to be found, it’s because they’re part of the record pertaining to this case. Mike Murphy who is mentioned here is the NHL’s vice president of hockey operations.
This e-mail from Campbell to Walkom in particular is ripe for discussion. Names were already removed from it and the only edit we’re doing is to edit some of the colorful language used. We don’t want this post to get nixed by your sensitive work filters for naughty language. Again, we stress to you to go read the full post to get the full story on how things go down.
A couple weeks later Mike Murphy or Mr. Walkom (it was not clear which) wrote to Mr. Campbell (and Mr. Walkom) that Mr. Warren had “missed high stick on [player] with 130 left in the game…..hard for a Ref to see….[general manager] will be whining’. Mr. Campbell replied:
To Stephen Walkom/Tor/NHL@NHL
Subject Re: Delayed Penalties/High Sticks 02/#/2007 4:24 pm
A bend in the road is a dead end if you round the corner and Dean Warren is standing there. Your answer re: his high stick calls and the score of the game were horse sh**. The 3rd call on [player] was while they were down 5 on 4 and on a def zone face off vs that little fake artist [player] I had him in [city] biggest faker going. And Warren fell for it when he grabbed his face on a face off. Your supposed to see the act, not call the embellishing act. Dean Warren has to go with [referee] There must be a way to get rid of this guy. Is there a way we can tract (sic) and total minors called by referees this year. We could then get the minors they call per game. … or with 2 [referees on the ice] it is impossible? Warren and [referee] out of [club’s] games. Give them to [referees].
Stephen Walkom to: Colin Campbell 02/#/2007 04:39 PM
that’s funny yet not funny….I think we have that data but it may work in his favour….that’s why I’m against data and more about IT….he doesn’t have it, never had it, and is average at best, probably never get it,
OK I’m going to stop it….
From: Stephen Walkom
Sent: 02/#/2007 08:09 AM
To: Mike Murphy
Cc: Colin Campbell
Subject: Re: ….. / …….
Terry ran into …….after the game who was upset, linesmen…………..viewed the play but no injury could be found therefore no call [player] was saying to Terry that he was injured but the guys didn’t see anything but spit and gatorade residue….therefore no double minor….
Colin Campbell to Stephen Walkom, Mike Murphy
02/#/2007 09:21 AM
I know Murph and Kinger like [player] as a player but my view of him is this exactly…he puts his whining ahead of the game. I don’t think this is a regular occurrence (…..getting screwed) and …..exploded ………over the disallowed goal. He may be uncontrollable by ………….and……………..as I think his frustration level has hit a high point. He hates officials as well. He is still pissed off at [referee] for a call he missed in the playoffs years ago as I remember him bugging Murph about it. Let’s give him Warren and [referee] than (sic) he will really have something to whine about.
If you’re curious about who in the world Campbell is so hot under the collar discussing, Bruins fans might want to take a keen eye to who Dellow was able to do the detective work to find out which game this was in reference to and who the interested parties were that managed to draw Campbell’s ire. Those of you who have suspected that nepotism and old grudges might rule Campbell’s world, you’re about to get a huge dose of vindication.
OK – this one I think we can nail down. We know that Campbell is upset about a situation involving a team that was already down to 5 v 4, on a defensive zone faceoff against a “little fake artist” who Campbell had (presumably in New York when he coached the Rangers. We also know that it was that player’s third penalty of the night. We can assume, from the chair’s description of this as being a few weeks after some earlier February emails, that it was in late February.
As it so happens, there is a game featuring players that meet this description. On February 24, 2007, Dean Warren reffed a game between the Bruins and the Panthers. At 13:29 of the second, Alexei Semenov was called for high sticking. Marc Savard, who played for Colin Campbell when he coached the Rangers, came out over the boards. He glided towards the dot where he faced off with Panthers penalty killer…Gregory Campbell. The puck was dropped and Campbell was called for high sticking. His third penalty of the game.
This is the only game from February, 2007 that meets the description.
So to dumb things down here this is what we’ve got:
- Colin Campbell thinks that Marc Savard is a “little fake artist” and “the biggest faker going”
- Colin Campbell gets really upset when his son is made a fool of by a referee
- Colin Campbell holds a huge grudge
Dellow’s piece goes on to analyze a few more e-mails from Campbell to Walkom and finds yet another instance when Greg Campbell was wronged by an official and Colin Campbell blew his stack about it to Walkom. I don’t think we need to make it any clearer what an extremely large conflict of interest this is for not just the players on the ice, but also the integrity of the officials working a game where Greg Campbell is playing.
Oddly enough, this off-season we saw Greg Campbell end up in Boston, the same city where Marc Savard plays. Did the Bruins feel they got the short end of the stick when Matt Cooke wasn’t suspended after taking Savard’s head off and thought that if they brought Greg Campbell on board they’d get a fairer shake from the league? It’s not likely the main motivation, but having dad peeking over his son’s new team’s shoulder every game can’t hurt. At the very least, when Savard returns to the lineup that first day in the locker room might be a lot more interesting now.
Amusingly so, Colin Campbell comes off out of all this looking like a hockey parent out of control doing the sorts of things with his position of power that parents that run their kid’s pee-wee league do to make sure that their child always ends up on the all-star teams. After all, he ends up e-mailing the head of officiating to yell about his kid not getting a fair shake, one of the officials indicated in this whole situation has already lost his job (Dean Warren), and the discussion about Campbell having an extreme conflict of interest in having his job and a relative playing in the league can now no longer be pooh-poohed as not being possible since this is a professional league.
Instead, you’ve got a league official ruling the roost with a chip on his shoulder, playing favorites towards his own son, and a grudge towards at least one player he used to coach. There is absolutely zero way for this to look good on the NHL to have a person in a position of power, a man who makes the decisions on who gets suspended or not and for how long, to work with a clear mind and without bias when he’s clearly got some problems with some players and officials. How the NHL decides to answer to this will be fascinating. Regardless of what kind of PR-friendly way they answer to this, the NHL looks horrible because of it.
It’s hard to believe that Colin Campbell will keep his job much longer after this. All the chatter and innuendo that was made with a wink and a nod about how Campbell plays favorites is no longer funny when it’s found to actually be true. It’s not as if Campbell has been without controversy already concerning his decisions on virtually everything, the spotlight has been on him for a long time as it is and now those that have been highly critical of him have the smoking gun they’ve been dying to see.
In a fun twist, it turns out the one guy who could keep us from talking about Sean Avery all day on Monday over his fight is the same guy that decided to sit Avery down for six games for saying nasty things about an old girlfriend. Colin Campbell might very well get a permanent vacation for colorful language of his own.
(Update: The NHL has responded to the situation and their take on things won’t help quiet down the public outcry)