Colin Campbell exposed: Says Marc Savard is “biggest faker going”; berates officials for picking on his son

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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….

Re [player]
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)

Laraque, Okposo, others discuss Trump, national anthem protests

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We’ve already seen some reactions to Donald Trump’s comments about NFL athletes kneeling during the national anthem and the Pittsburgh Penguins’ controversial decision to accept a White House visit.

As Puck Daddy’s Greg Wyshynski notes, 93 percent of NHL players identify as white. While it’s interesting to hear from the likes of Auston Matthews and Blake Wheeler, what about hockey players who are more directly affected?

Plenty of interesting perspectives came through on Tuesday, so let’s consider some of the more fascinating reactions.

Georges Laraque disapproves of Penguins’ visit

Laraque, a black former NHL player and Montreal native, made it clear that he doesn’t agree with the Penguins’ decision, as he told the Canadian Press.

“I know hockey’s more conservative than other sports, but this time it’s just wrong,” Laraque said. “I’m surprised the NHL didn’t make a stand.”

“To me, it’s an embarrassment that they’re going.”

He also shared this slightly profane tweet on the matter.

Josh Ho-Sang is inspired by the protests

New York Islanders forward Josh Ho-Sang provided an interesting take to Newsday’s Arthur Staple, and also reminded observes that, as an international sport, the NHL features some players who might not feel as invested in (or at least as informed about) these debates.

“I think what the NFL players are doing is amazing. It’s good that they’re all sticking together,” Ho-Sang said on Monday. “I mean, I’m Canadian, so I don’t have too much input on the matter itself. It will affect me living in the States, but the biggest thing is it’s unfortunate that the message may have gotten lost a little. Now it’s becoming a battle between the NFL and the president and originally [the protests] started because of police brutality and the mistreatment of different races.”

Kyle Okposo doesn’t plan on kneeling, but supports the right to do so

While Ho-Sang and Laraque shared interesting insights as Canadians, Kyle Okposo is a black NHL forward hailing from Minnesota (he was the first black player in Golden Gophers history).

Like Ho-Sang, Okposo (pictured) was supportive of people making demonstrations. That said, he doesn’t expect to do so himself, as he told the Buffalo News’ John Vogl.

“Protecting the First Amendment is a huge thing,” Okposo said. “I’m a proud American, and I’m proud to be from the United States. Myself personally, I wouldn’t kneel for an anthem, but I respect those that do.”

***

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen the current political climate affect NHL players or people they know.

Back in January, New York Rangers forward Mika Zibanejad, was “confused” by that iteration of a travel ban, as the Swedish forward had family living in Iran.

Players in plenty of sports are navigating tough questions this week. It’s important to remember that athletes can find themselves in tough spots when addressing topics that can be polarizing and/or complex.

Laraque stated that hockey is more “conservative than other sports,” so it seems like a good time to read up on the culture of this sport.

With the regular season about to kick into gear on Oct. 4, it’s certain that there will be more eyes on anthems than ever before. The insights in this post should be useful, whether NHL players kneel, sit, speak, or decide to stick to hockey.

Huge step? Doctors may find a way to identify CTE in living NHL players

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Pro Football Talk’s Josh Alper and TSN’s Rick Westhead pass along what could be a breakthrough Boston University study  – or at least the early stages of a breakthrough – in how concussions/CTE are handled in sports.

The key: after only being able to study brains of deceased athletes, there’s a chance that living athletes with CTE might eventually be identified.

On face value, that’s great news for player health. Hockey, like other contact sports such as football, is no stranger to careers and lives being derailed by brain injuries.

Of course, the NHL and NHLPA would need to cooperate to make the most of potential progress. If you’ve watched hockey long enough, particularly postseason hockey, you know that certain protocols can stand as great concepts met with hesitant execution.

Westhead expounds on such thoughts, and some of his findings aren’t very pretty.

The league is embroiled in a class-action lawsuit regarding concussions, and its actions have been elusive enough that politicians have gone as far as to accuse Gary Bettman and the NHL of being “delusional” about the issue.

Don’t just put this on the league, though.

Players might be hesitant to take such tests if it means that they’ll miss playing time (or even see their careers end). It brings back memories of Peyton Manning willfully sandbagging his baseline concussion test. For better or worse, these guys want to play.

Not great, yet you can also understand the human element.

Of course, it’s crucial to realize that potential breakthroughs from this study could take quite some time to trickle into functional practices, even if leagues and players end up being more willing to comply than expected.

Overall, this is promising news. Hopefully such changes could help athletes during their careers and into retirement.

Sprong continues to impress, just not enough to make Penguins (yet)

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The Pittsburgh Penguins frequently give prospect Daniel Sprong rave reviews, yet it seems like they believe that he still needs some seasoning before making a dent at the NHL level.

Sprong and fellow intriguing forward Zach Aston-Reese headlined a group of 21 players the Penguins demoted to the AHL on Tuesday.

Here is the full list:

Forwards Zach Aston-Reese, Teddy Blueger, Jean-Sebastien Dea, Thomas Di Pauli, Adam Johnson, Sam Miletic, Dominik Simon, Colin Smith, Daniel Sprong, Christian Thomas, Freddie Tiffels and Garrett Wilson; defensemen Lukas Bengtsson, Frank Corrado, Kevin Czuczman, Ethan Prow, Chris Summers, Jarred Tinordi and Zach Trotman; and goalies Casey DeSmith and Tristan Jarry have all been returned to WBS.

Sprong, 20, was the 46th pick of the 2015 NHL Draft. He’s been generating solid numbers at the OHL, so it will be interesting to see how he converts that to AHL work. Sprong played 18 regular-season games for the Penguins back in 2015-16, notching two goals.

Sprong discussed that experience with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette this summer.

“I played [in the NHL] at 18 for a reason,” Sprong said. “With the shoulder surgery last year, that was kind of a setback. But I’m excited for this year and hopefully I can start the season here.”

That won’t happen, but perhaps we’ll see Sprong in 2018-19 … or maybe sooner?

Aston-Reese, 23, already showed some promise in that regard; he scored eight games in a 10-game audition at the AHL level in 2016-17.

These moves narrow the Penguins’ training camp roster down to 26 players. They have until Oct. 3 to settle on 23.

Penguins, Kings among teams with notable waiver moves

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If an NHL team wants to add a big winger with two Stanley Cup rings,* they merely need to make a waiver claim.

TVA’s Renaud Lavoie tweeted out Tuesday’s list of waived players, with the Los Angeles Kings and Pittsburgh Penguins making some of the most interesting moves.

In the case of the Kings, they waived Jordan Nolan and former Penguins backup Jeff Zatkoff. Here’s the full list, via Lavoie:

There are some bullet points that can sell Nolan, but the 28-year-old’s production was quite limited at the NHL level. Nolan’s never scored 10 goals in a single season; in fact, he’s only reached 10 points once in his career (six goals and four assists in 64 regular-season contests back in 2013-14).

Overall, it wouldn’t be surprising if a team targeted Nolan as a depth guy, even if his ceiling is limited.

While the Penguins’ entries seem notable for sheer volume as much as anything else, Frank Corrado is another name that stands out.

Corrado was often the catalyst for debates about his playing time (or lack thereof) with the Toronto Maple Leafs, but it doesn’t seem like the defenseman is having much success catching on with the Penguins, either.

Zatkoff, meanwhile, fits in with quite a few other names on this list: possibly prominent in the AHL, only likely to get the occasional cup of coffee in the NHL, at this point.

* – Yes, it’s OK to think of Jaromir Jagr before that sentence ends.