God bless Ron MacLean.
Check out last night's CBC Sports Hockey Night in Canada Hot Stove debate on the Colin Campbell Email controversy (now hilariously short-handed to Colie-mail), in which Milbury wants an apology, LeBrun praises bloggers, Francis protects a source (it's the only rational explanation) and MacLean speaks truth to power.
God bless'em for cutting through the smoke to get to the fire. Just about a week after Tyler Dellow connected the dots on Campbell's emails and left the NHL red-faced, MacLean is one of the first big-name media to not get hung up on the cattiness of Campbell calling Marc Savard(notes) "a little fake artist" to explain why this behavior was a problem for the League then and now:
"Colin Campbell did so something wrong, Eric. He talked about his son Gregory. No matter how you slice it, it's a conflict of interest. When Steve Walkom, who at the time was the NHL director of officiating, is being grilled about games with Gregory Campbell(notes), and that is the rub. That is the one serious problem with Colin Campbell."
"What referee reading those emails or this story this week isn't thinking, 'Jeez, next time I have the Boston Bruins ... Colin Campbell has the ear of Terry Gregson, and I make a bad call in that game, how does that affect my chances?'"
It's understandable that the Savard comments grabbed the most attention, inspired the most reaction. Campbell should (and will) apologize to him, but the core of what Eric Francis said above is true: It's part of Campbell's job to tell the director of officiating who is embellishing, who is diving and who the officials should keep an eye on. Which is what he did with Savard, only in petty terms.
It's the sexier story, but not the important one. MacLean knew this, and everyone else should wake up to it. Because if Colin Campbell has revealed anything in the calculated spin over this controversy, it's that he's oblivious as to why it's such a tarnish on him and the League he serves.
The debate was refueled in the last 48 hours by the NHL, which had its VP of hockey operations appear on NHL Network, VERSUS, NHL Live on XM NHL Home Ice and which (finally) covered the story with prominence on NHL.com. Which is to say they used NHL-approved media outlets to help get Campbell's carefully crafted side of the story out.
Then Campbell appeared on TSN for a 1-on-1 with James Duthie, and things got a little more revelatory. He was fair, he was on point with some serious questions about Campbell's integrity and the appropriateness of his correspondence about his son, NHL forward Gregory Campbell, and Boston Bruins center Marc Savard.
One loses count of the number of outrageous statements and casual denials of any wrongdoing. Our favorite part was when Campbell said "one would be crazy to think that we could influence referees in individual games" when that's an essential part of his job.
Also: He didn't know that emails could be used as evidence in a hearing. Or that they could be found after he sent them from a BlackBerry. Please tell us that in the ensuing years the NHL has rectified the education gap on technology, and that the same guys who don't understand that magic picture box in their hand aren't the same ones influencing new media and social media policy.
What Campbell, based on his interviews, clearly doesn't get: His behavior, not the emails themselves, has tarnished his reputation and that of the League.
Of the 30 active players, all 30 said they believed Campbell's integrity has been permanently broken because of the e-mails - even if they were old e-mails and were taken out of context.
One player said it didn't matter. "Someone who wasn't with our organization at the time got an e-mail from Colie saying something negative about me," one player said. "I can't say anything publicly though, because if I ever have to go in front of him, it could affect what happens now."
Twenty-two of the 30 players said they think Campbell should step down from his position, be re-assigned, or as one player suggested, get some help in the form of a discipline committee.
"I think if there was a three-man discipline board it would make it a lot easier to swallow a suspension," a Western Conference player said. "Colie can stay on the board, but maybe have the Board of Governers or the G.M.s or the teams or somebody appoint one member to the board and the NHLPA appoint another. That way there can be no gripes."
And that's the damage done. Trust has been lost. Campbell actually began his TSN interview with the following bit of irony:
"For someone to say all of a sudden that emails that were strung together from three, four and five years ago, all of a sudden to say I can't do the job three years later then that must mean everything I did the past few years were wrong and should be questioned?"
Couldn't have said it better, Colin. Now what will the NHLPA have to say?