The hockey world is abuzz over a string of emails between NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell and several others. The emails were uncovered by Tyler Dellow of mc79Hockey.com, and have been plastered across all of the sites we go to for our entertainment and news. The emails are damning, they are petty, and they are absurd. The question remains, what do they mean?
To be certain, you will be able to find discussion of this topic on many sites today, and likely a great deal of discussion on Twitter. There are already multiple view points, from the extreme of calling for his head, to the "Yawn. Yeah, and?" type reaction. I guarantee you the one group we don't hear from is the one group that needs to step forward and answer the most.
Make the jump and let's discuss the matter, shall we?
First of all, Tyler's site has been completely overwhelmed by the traffic. However, please keep trying to get through and read the full piece. He deserves the traffic, as this is good, solid work. If nothing else, he gave Wild fans something to talk about for a couple off days, and that is always a good thing.
To set up our discussion, we go straight to the meat of the post. In an exchange between Campbell and NHLOA member Steven Wilkom. Keep in mind all of these emails are part of the documentation in a lawsuit regarding the firing of one of the referees by the NHL. The lawsuit has little to nothing to do with the topic at hand, but if you want to read about it, you can do so at Tyler's site. The email exchange is this:
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.
Please note the dates of these emails. They all occurred in February of 2007. Thus, they are not new information, and this is not a new line of piss poor reasoning by Campbell, simply the exposure to light of one of many piss poor lines of reasoning. What you need to take away from these emails is this: The player Campbell thinks is a faker is Boston's Marc Savard, and the player he is upset about being called for a high stick? His own son Gregory Campbell.
The players involved are deduced by Tyler, not by me, but following the reasoning in his post, it is pretty clear he is correct.
Anyone ever heard of Gregory Campbell? No? That's because the only time he is ever mentioned is when his father does something stupid or passes on making a decision regarding whatever team Greg is playing for at the time. Not to pile on the kid, but he is a relative nobody in the grand scheme of things.
The fact that Campbell is complaining to an NHLOA representative about a call that went against his son is tacky at best, and is abusing his influence at worst. That Campbell is willing to call a player names and question that player's honesty openly to an NHLOA official is completely unprofessional and unacceptable. The fact that any of this occurred is completely and totally unsurprising.
The discussion has spread across the web, with posts from many large NHL sites, a Twitter meme, and some banter back and forth.
From Justin Bourne on Twitter:
Thing that bothers me most about the Colie emails isn't the son thing, it's that he seems willing (if not eager) to misuse his position.
In response to that Joe Yerdon of ProHockeyTalk:
Not just that but it's accepted as normal by those he's e-mailing.
From Greg Wyshynski of Puck Daddy:
Sorry, don't see that on Campbell. Part of his position is offering opinion on refs; it's on the dir. of officiating to act.
I have to say, I agree with Bourne and Yerdon on this. The string of emails shows that he is complaining about calls against his son. The only reason to do that to an NHLOA official is to try to influence if it happens again. Otherwise, the email needed to go to a friend. If he was just venting frustration, it should not have gone to the NHLOA, it should have gone to family. The fact that he chose to email an NHLOA official about shows a complete lack of judgment and is an abuse of his power.
The fact that the email is greeted with seeming joviality is disappointing. Sure, Campbell has a responsibility to offer an opinion on the refereeing in the league. However, it should be done in a professional manner, and it should never, ever, involve calling players names, or trying to influence calls in favor of his son.
A hockey parent in Mites would be lambasted for trying to influence league officials regarding calls on their kid. Why should the head of NHL discipline be exempt? The fact that he offered his "opinion" is unacceptable in the first place. His opinion is not just his opinion. By the weight of his position, it also becomes the league's opinion.
Changes the entire tone and meaning of the emails if you put it in the context of the NHL contacting the NHLOA, doesn't it? It is a clear abuse of power, and shouldn't simply be glossed over as though it isn't a big deal.
Good friend Ms. Conduct had this to say on Twitter:
Am I the only one kinda "meh" on the Campbell emails? I feel like if he hasn't been fired for incompetence yet, then this isn't enuf either.
No, H, you aren't. I promise you that.
Wysh continues his thoughts on the blog at Puck Daddy:
Since Dellow's bombshell of a post, Boston bloggers are screaming about bias and many fans have called for Campbell's head.
To them, we'd ask: For what, exactly?
Unabashed favoritism? Reputation-based decisions? An inability to rule impartially or consistently due to personal preferences?
You needed an email to validate the obvious about Colin Campbell?
It's comforting when our suspicions are confirmed, and we assume there are more than a few "I KNEW IT!" eureka moments around hockey today. Campbell would do himself and the League good to address the controversial aspects of the emails; hell, maybe release a few more that add context or contradict their main ideas (should those exist).
But the man has given us a dozen years' worth of reasons to fire his ass, and the ones that rise above badmouthing Marc Savard or being a high-profile, micro-managing hockey dad are too numerous to list. As Jack Edwards of NESN wrote in his ode to Colin Campbell back in 2009:
The only person who seems to understand Colin Campbell's pattern of punishment is Campbell himself. The suspensions he hands down are arbitrary and erratic -- swayed by non-evidence, hunch, gut feelings, anecdotes and back-channel influence peddlers -- and they are almost never clearly explained. He establishes precedent and contradicts it. He makes exceptions based on flawed premises and then concludes his arguments illogically and capriciously. No one, no one, knows what is allowed and what is not allowed. It is Dartboard Justice.
Perhaps there is someone patrolling the highways and byways of hockey that has the ability to establish standards of punishment; to draw a clear line that everyone understands; to communicate effectively with players, coaches, managers and fans; and to make the NHL a fair and safe place for the world's most exciting athletes. But Colin Campbell is not that someone.
If anything, this controversy is an argument for someone to dole out the NHL's suspensions and fines that doesn't have history with players or political ties with team managers. Someone who isn't beholden to the players or the teams or maybe even to the NHL.
Again, the fact that Campbell is abusing his power and is incapable of sound judgment is not a surprise. The fact that it is documented, and that those documents are now public makes it a big deal. This is the proverbial "smoking gun" that lawyers and politicians are always looking for. Speculation on criticism summed up and proven in less than one page of type.
I can understand the thinking here. I can. Colin Campbell has set himself up in a PR standpoint as a blithering idiot with no ability to do his job, and the NHL has done nothing about it. Lower the bar enough, and no one expects you to do anything. This adds up to an apathy towards the situation that basically comes down to "They had their chance, and never did, so why would they now?"
They should now because of the reason listed above. The proof. Before, the only thing we had was a record of inconsistent discipline that the NHL explained away as being conducted on a "case-by-case" basis, and assumptions by a large number of smart people that Campbell was biased. However, this proves it. When the proof is presented in black and white, it is changes the equation.
Did we need the emails? No. Did the NHL need the emails? Absolutely they did. They cannot be explained away, and they cannot simply be ignored. There is no justification for the things Campbell wrote to the NHLOA. None. An NHL executive cannot be allowed to attempt to sway an NHLOA official into improving the playing conditions for his son, and he cannot be allowed to openly call players names.
Jack Edwards knows Colin Campbell is a joke, the fans know, the players know, and the media knows. Up until today, the NHL has plausible deniability. They no longer have that. I defy the NHL to answer these allegations. Show me anything, anything at all that would justify what Campbell did in this situation. Sure, it was almost four years ago, but if it happened once, it has happened again, and is likely still happening.
Bah, get up Savard, you faker. Ya damn sissy.
Did Campbell's dislike of Marc Savard play a factor in his decision to not suspend Matt Cooke? It is clear the dislike is there. Has any human being ever been able to completely set aside their emotions when making a decision? Logic says the emotion affected the decision. Logic also says that if this email had been public before that hit, that Campbell would have had to recuse himself from the situation. He didn't do that, and now he looks not just addled, but dirty because of it.
Let's wrap this up, shall we? Colin Campbell attempted to cheat. Whether or not that attempt was successful doesn't matter. Campbell has some kind of influence on whether or not the the refs keep their jobs. He is acting not only as a father, but as a powerful representative of the NHL. He attempted to use his sway to make life easier for his son, and to affect the calls the refs are making regarding his son. This is no different than sliding a bag of money across the table and saying "Do the right thing" with a sly wink.
He also completely ignored one of the most dangerous hits the league has ever seen, by a repeat offender, involving a player Campbell has a strong distaste for. A hit that led immediately to rule changes to keep Campbell from ignoring them again. But hey, Savard already got his, right Colie?
Colin Campbell has been called a lot of things in his time with the NHL. Idiot, moron, illogical, inconsistent. These emails show he is also abusive of his power, abusive toward the players he lords over, and they also show that he is a cheater.
Should Campbell be fired for the emails? Absolutely. Will he be? Not a chance in hell. Just like he should have been fired for his years of mismanagement, but never was. However, this should not lead to the fans and media simply brushing this off as just another Colin Campbell moment. He cheated, abused his power, abused the players, and abused the name of the NHL in his attempt to get his way.
The discipline in the league should, indeed, be left to someone without bias and without the multitude of connections in the NHL. Clearly, it should not be left to someone who cannot control his emotion for his son, and who cannot control the emotion of his grudges.
The ball is in your court NHL. I am more than willing to bet we hear absolutely nothing from the league about this. They have no way to spin it, so better to just stick their head in the sand and wait for something to distract our attention. Sickening.