When it comes to public opinion, sometimes it’s not about the content of the message but rather how the message is relayed. If you want a famous example, how about the time Richard Nixon “lost” the 1960 presidential debates with John F. Kennedy largely because of his appearance?
In a tirade that in some ways reminds me of author Buzz Bissinger’s notorious tirade toward Deadspin founder Will Leitch, NHL executive (and head of discipline) Colin Campbell made waves thanks to his bombastic Tuesday appearance on TSN radio.
Campbell almost seemed unhinged at times as he discussed the “thankless” job of handing out suspensions and fines for questionable hits. One of his most passionate moments came when he spoke about Sidney Crosby’s concussion issues, as Campbell dismissed talk that David Steckel and Victor Hedman’s hits were dirty. Ultimately, the aggressive tone of his words overshadowed whatever logic he provided.
You can listen to every surprising moment of his radio appearance here, but James Mirtle points out some of the most interesting moments. Here are a few excerpts.
“Thankless job? Yeah, it’s thankless,” he said. “Especially at this time of year when there’s so much at play here with the playoffs and cities are involved. When you rule on certain situations, all of a sudden you become public enemy No. 1 so… Am I pissed off right now? Yeah I’m pissed off.
“The most suspensions I’ve had in a playoff were four, in an entire playoffs. We had two going into these playoffs and four already and we’re only halfway through the first round.”
On Crosby’s concussion, Campbell was especially outraged at the suggestion Tampa Bay Lightning defenceman Victor Hedman’s hit should have been penalized.
“You guys are crazy when you say that,” Campbell said. “What do you want to do to the game? You’re nuts. There are some hits out there that we don’t like, but … Come on you guys. You can’t say that was dirty you guys. You don’t watch hockey.”
The past few years would be difficult for anyone in Campbell’s position, as it’s unfair to put all the blame on one person when the entire league has a long way to go to improve this process.
That being said, his credibility has taken a few hits over the last few years. From controversial verdicts such as the non-suspension on Matt Cooke on Marc Savard during the 2009-10 season to the embarrassing e-mail scandal, his critics have had plenty of fodder.
At this point, you almost have to wonder how much one man can take. For many hockey fans, suspension-related controversies and other embarrassments will be Campbell’s legacy. That would be a real shame.