The days of feeling as if the NHL is being run as if a shadow government with conflicts of interest existing in a hush-hush manner are coming to an end.
Colin Campbell, the Senior VP of Hockey Operations for the NHL, will be stepping down from his position as the league disciplinarian at the end of the season. Gone will be the talk of conflicts of interest and perhaps gone with him will be the cloud of mystery that surrounds any and all decisions on punishment (or non-punishment) of players and the “Wheel Of Justice” means that decisions are handed out.
According to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, Campbell won’t be stepping down from his VP position, he’ll just be relinquishing his duties as the judge, jury, and executioner of player discipline issues. While that job unto itself is a thankless one with GMs and players around the league constantly in your ear, emails revealed that Campbell was taking advantage of his position in the league to potentially influence calls in favor of his son Gregory, currently with the Boston Bruins. Campbell also lashed out against referees for not calling out dives. Marc Savard caught Campbell’s ire in one email in particular calling him “the biggest faker going.”
Perhaps the breaking point for Campbell came thanks to a radio appearance in April when he was questioned by TSN Radio’s James Cybulski about his decision to not suspend Raffi Torres for his hit on Brent Seabrook during the Canucks first round series against Chicago. Campbell went on a tirade against Cybulski and was angered at having his take on the play and the situation questioned. Campbell sounded like a guy who was at his wits end after a year of having his abilities questioned and the very apparent conflict of interest consistently being discussed. That conflict of interest even spurred a column before the start of the Stanley Cup finals posing some nonsensical conspiracy theories from one Vancouver columnist who once again called Campbell’s conflict of interest into question.
NHL VP of hockey and business operations Brendan Shanahan will take over the position as the league’s disciplinarian. Shanahan is a former all star player over 21 seasons with five different teams (New Jersey, St. Louis, Hartford, Detroit, New York Rangers). Over that time, he knows a thing or two about tough play amassing 2,489 penalty minutes as well as 656 goals and 1,354 points in what will someday be a Hall Of Fame career.
Shanahan is a smart guy and an innovative one on top of all that. What he’ll need to do is to help remove the smoky room aspect to this job and make it far more transparent and consistent. That won’t be easy with 30 GMs always wanting punishment to be tougher on other teams and easier on their own. Shanahan will have to realize that the “old boys” network that seemed to exist under Campbell won’t work anymore and that making sure to punish heinous acts on the ice get to be more understandable to the players and to the public. Getting a guy that’s not far removed from the game (Shanahan retired in 2009) helps that out because he’s got a better understanding of what’s going on out on the ice and has a better idea of the evil that lies in the hearts of some players.
Here’s to hoping this leads to a far more understanding era of punishment in the league.