NHL vice president and league disciplinarian Colin Campbell is under fire for comments he made in a string of emails to then director of officiating Stephen Walkom.
Posted on hockey website www.mc79hockey.com, and written by Tyler Dellow, the emails raise questions about Campbell's impartiality, especially as it pertains to his son Gregory, an NHL player who was then on the Florida Panthers, but now plays for the Boston Bruins.
The email correspondence became a matter of public record in the wrongful dismissal case of referee Dean Warren against the NHL.
The emails were entered into evidence in the case, although specific references to names and dates were blacked out.
But Dellow, using the NHL schedule and specific details from the emails, was able to piece together specific references to identifiable players and games and cites Campbell calling Boston Bruin centre Marc Savard a "little fake artist" after Warren assessed Gregory Campbell a high-sticking minor on Savard and sending further emails to director of officiating Walkom complaining about the work of referees who gave Gregory a late-game penalty that resulted in a tying goal.
Here's the email Campbell sent to Walkom, as it appears in Dellow's story:
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 ----. 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].
And a follow up email sent by Campbell:
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.
Dellow was able to take information included in various emails and match them up to game sheets, determining the circumstances Campbell and others were referring to was a Feb. 24, 2007 game when Warren officiated a Florida-Atlanta game, where the Panthers were put two men down when Campbell was assessed a high-sticking minor off a faceoff with Savard.
Dellow raised the spectre of Campbell's feelings, as documented in the email, perhaps being a factor in Campbell's decision last March to not suspend Pittsburgh's Matt Cooke for the shoulder-to-the-head check that knocked out Savard and ultimately led to a new NHL rule on blindside hits to the head.
Dellow also highlighed another string of emails between Campbell and Walkom where Campbell is unhappy over a penalty assessed late in the game. Dellow deduced that the game in question was Florida-Atlanta and the penalized player was Gregory Campbell:
From: Colin Campbell
Sent: 11/#/2007 09:54 PM EST
To: Stephen Walkom
Game not televised. Radio announcers said it was a bulls--- penalty…you need to find out for me. How…I don't know but this was awful. 1:30 left in 2-1 game for [team] and [player] scored with 2 second left to tie it up them won in OT. F---
From: Stephen Walkom
Sent: 11/#/2007 09:56 PM EST
To: Colin Campbell
Subject: Re: Penalty
ok ill find out….
11/#/2007 10:48 PM
Colin Campbell to Stephen Walkom
Did you find out anything? It was [another referee] that made the call. Keep Warren and gas this ----head. 90 seconds left and he calls a weak penalty…tripping. Makes me sick. If I was at the game I would have had to fine me.
The NHL's policy with regards to interaction between Campbell and his son or any games involving the team his son is playing on or against is to have Mike Murphy handle all related matters.
Contacted by TSN for its reaction to Dellow's piece, deputy commissioner Bill Daly said: "Any suggestion that Colin Campbell performs his job with any less than 100% integrity at all times and in every decision he makes is way off base and just factually wrong. Because of the potential for a conflict of interest, or more importantly a perceived conflict of interest, the League has implemented various structural protections that prohibit Colie from having any oversight or disciplinary authority relating to any game in which his son, Gregory, plays. Its always fair to question and criticize League decisions as being wrong, but not on the basis that they aren't justly and fairly arrived at."
Contacted by TSN for his reaction, Campbell said: "For me, it's much ado about nothing. Stephen and I would have banter back and forth and Stephen knows I'm a (hockey) dad venting and both of us knowing it wouldn't go any further than that. Stephen would laugh at me. The game in question (when Gregory Campbell was penalized late in the Atlanta-Florida game) wasn't on TV and I was asking Stephen to find out for me if it was a soft call. That's all there ever was to it. The (refs) working that game are still in the league, aren't they? Stephen handled the officials, just like Terry Gregson does now, and I've got a lot of emails to those guys asking about this soft call or that soft call and that's in a lot of games. I'm not ultimately responsible for the (on-ice) officials, that's Terry Gregson's responsibility, but I have to answer to GMs on these calls."