November 16, 2010
Colin Campbell, the NHL VP of hockey operations whose published emails were exposed by blogger Tyler Dellow to spark a massive controversy this week, owes an apology he obviously doesn't want to give.
His statement last night about the "scandal" was laser-focused on his son Gregory Campbell(notes) of the Boston Bruins, and whether or not the father had broken a vow to recuse himself from disciplinary situations involving his son or his son's team. After all, he's just "a (hockey) dad venting" to the head of NHL officiating, right?
His statement didn't mention Bruins center Marc Savard(notes), which was odd, because it's his calling Savard a "little fake artist" and the "biggest faker going" that really drew the ire of hockey fans and certain corners of the hockey media.
The omission is either an indication that the NHL believes the connected-dots nature of Dellow's work on the Savard criticism give Campbell plausible deniability, or that Campbell feels his candid assessments of players like Savard are (a) understandable given his advisory role to the director of officiating and (b) immaterial to his rulings on Savard, despite the guilt by association with those emails.
What he needs to do is cowboy-up and apologize to Savard, publicly.
Look, we've all gotten caught saying the wrong thing about the wrong person and then having those words fall into the wrong hands. And sometimes, you apologize to these abominable jerks because it defuses bigger issues or because it's just good form.
The majority of hockey fans, based on the comments on this blog and reactions elsewhere, now believe Colin Campbell has a bias against Marc Savard, a (soon-to-be) active player in the NHL. The revelation of these emails have embarrassed this player and, in turn, the NHL. Call it empty, call it hollow, call it compulsory: Colin Campbell should apologize to Savard.
And then, after the stench of this mess fades, the NHL can start revamping the disciplinary system that Campbell's helped turn into a festering boil of hypocrisy.
Tyler Dellow deserves credit for a lot of things, and sparking a healthy debate about Campbell's future and the future of the "Czar of Discipline" position for the NHL is one of them.
What's become obvious to many is that this task should no longer be governed by, or synonymous with, one man. That it's time for the NHL to have a panel of judges to dole out suspensions.
This isn't to say that Colin Campbell is a solitary man on suspensions and fines. It's a collaborative process within the NHL, with input from the players and teams involved in incidents and from the NHLPA. But at the end of the day, it's Campbell at the head of that table, and the arguments are strong that the NHL should add some extra chairs.
The venerable Kevin Paul Dupont of the Boston Globe called for Colin Campbell to step down last March after Pittsburgh Penguins forward Matt Cooke's(notes) headshot on Savard. After the email flap, he's calling for the NHL to redesign its disciplinary system:
Along with moving Campbell off the job, the league, on a Board of Governors level, should redesign the overall method of supplemental discipline. The league continually says it wants to embrace a full partnership with its players, all of whom are members of the NHL Players' Association (soon to be under the thumb of ex-baseball union boss Don Fehr).
Well, if a true partnership is the goal, the league and its PA should be partners in supplemental discipline, with one representative from each side working to find fair, equitable ground in such matters. A third body, possibly a former GM or team president or respected ex-referee, could be used as a tiebreaker. Leaving it all to one person is ill-conceived and dangerous. Expanding to two or three people would take the focus away from the decision-maker and put it where it belongs - on the decision.
Exactly. Conflicts of interest would be nullified, politics would be balanced, and a sense of thoroughness would emanate from the process.
Justin Bourne agrees, likening it to a panel of judges in a boxing match. Kelly Reardon of Blackhawks DL offered this endorsement:
A panel would have many advantages instead of Campbell's Wheel O' Justice which is laughably inconsistent. First, you'd eliminate - or at least minimize - personal grudges, feuds and relationships from the decision making process. The feelings that Campbell has towards a particular player/official/whoever, would be minimized or eliminated by having several others added to the process.
Second, and probably most importantly, the decisions would become more consistent. Just statistically, having more people involved in a decision brings in more opinions and more recollection of similar situations. This will lead to more comparisons between situation A and situation B and begin to actually establish a guideline of punishment for particular acts. No longer will miming a [oral sex] run you as many games as a dangerous hit from behind (Niklas Hjalmarrson).
There are changes to be made to the system in the next CBA. The James Wisniewski(notes) suspension, for example, revealed the need for bigger fines so players aren't suspended for lewd gestures in the same system that suspends players from causing brain injuries.
But, in a bigger picture, this Colin Campbell email controversy is a moment when the players and the league can come together an revamp a broken system by spreading the power.