|Leaked emails suggest Colin Campbell held bias against Savard, Bruins|
On Sunday, Tyler Dellow of mc79hockey.com — which describes itself as a statistics-based Oilers blog — wrote a story about supposed emails he stumbled upon that were sent by Colin Campbell, the NHL’s principal disciplinarian, to fellow league officials Stephen Walkom and Mike Murphy back in 2007. In the emails shown on the website, Campbell expresses an immeasurable disdain for former ref Dean Warren, strenuously objects to numerous penalties called on his son, Gregory (then with the Panthers), and — as the writer determined by piecing all of the parts together — made the claim that Bruins center Marc Savard was a “little fake artist”.
Dellow claims to have encountered these emails while searching CanLII, the Canadian Legal Information Institute, which essentially posts legal decisions made in the country on the web.
Upon searching CanLII’s database, I managed to find the exact ruling Dellow described. It was a case decided on Oct. 6, 2010, in which longtime referee Dean Warren took the National Hockey League to court for wrongful termination. All it took was a few moments of scrolling down the document to determine the following:
These emails are real folks. They are very, very real. And the NHL is about to get — to quote “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air” — flip-turned upside down.
If you would like to read Dellow’s full article, click here. Here’s the short of it:
Campbell sent the following email in February of 2007 (specific names of players etc. were not released to the public):
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!t. 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].
Campbell coached two different teams during his career behind the bench. First he was an assistant in Detroit before eventually becoming the head coach of the Rangers. Dellow poured over box scores from that particular month and came upon a game between the Bruins and Panthers. In that particular matchup, Gregory Campbell was whistled for three minor penalties, the last of which was for high-sticking Marc Savard who — you guessed it — played under Colin Campbell after being drafted by the Rangers.
Here’s the officially play-by-play from that tilt, a 7-2 win by the Panthers on Feb. 24, 2007:
176 2 13:29 FACE-OFF N/A – BOS won – offensive zone. BOS 91 SAVARD vs FLA 11 CAMPBELL
177 2 13:34 BLOCKED SHOT FLA SH 4 BOUWMEESTER
178 2 13:38 PENALTY FLA – 11 CAMPBELL, Hi-sticking, 2 min
There are three main storylines we can take from this…
1) With this email in play, in addition to roughly a dozen others posted on CanLII, it is blatantly obvious that Colin Campbell despised Dean Warren as both a human being and a referee, and one can only surmise that he played a part in making sure the veteran ref was ousted. Here is Warren’s allegation:
Mr. Warren alleges he was a well known advocate for officials’ rights because over the course of his career he assisted NHL officials whose employment was terminated by the League. He alleges that when in 2006 he was elected to the executive board of the National Hockey League Officials Association (the “OA” or “NHLOA”), the League viewed his election as a threat to its plan, as sanctioned by recent amendments to the collective agreement, to retire a number of senior officials through what was called “succession planning” and the League terminated his employment as a result.
And here is the league’s decision:
The League denies the applicant’s allegations. It asserts the applicant was a mediocre referee whose employment was terminated for reasons unrelated to any work he did on behalf of other officials. Moreover, the League argues that it had the collective agreement right to ask senior officials to retire through succession planning, a right which had recently been negotiated into the collective agreement between the League and the OA, and Mr. Warren could not have been any threat to that process. As a result it says, Mr. Warren’s claims about the League’s motives do not even make sense.
Did the NHL completely disregard the aforementioned emails when making this decision?
2) In reading all of these emails, it is quite clear that Campbell has been highly vocal in a number of matters regarding his son. It is, of course, a natural reaction for any father to do so, but one the elder Campbell was strictly forbidden from doing. As the current Senior Vice President and Director of Hockey Operations for the league, Campbell is strictly prohibited from ruling on any matters regarding either Campbell or his team. From the looks of it, he tried numerous times to circumvent those rules and sway the decisions of others who were allowed to decide on such matters.
3) And now we get back to where we began with all of this: Savard. Campbell deemed his former player a big faker in the emails. And while Savard did come to Boston with a bit of a reputation for occasionally embellishing…how can one not believe there was a tremendous amount of bias in play when Campbell decided that Penguins forward Matt Cooke would not be suspended for his vicious hit on the 33-year-old pivot back in March?
Who is to say that Campbell wasn’t just exacting a little revenge — or wrongly assuming No. 91 was exaggerating — when Cooke’s hit forced Savard to depart Mellon Arena on a stretcher?
The B’s have had their fate placed in Campbell’s hands a number of times since Savard arrived in the Hub of Hockey:
a) Flyers defenseman Randy Jones got suspended for a hit on Patrice Bergeron that cost the B’s center nearly the entirety of the 2007-08 season. Campbell’s statement on the matter:
“”He did deliver a hard check to a player who was in a vulnerable position,” Campbell said. “There have been suggestions by some that this hit was comparable to incidents earlier this season where players received significant-game suspensions for blows to the head. These comparisons and suggestions are wrong.”
B) Later that year, Andrew Alberts was demolished by Scott Hartnell (also of the Flyers) while on his knees and in a vulnerable position along the boards. Hartnell also got just two games, while Alberts missed the rest of the regular season and part of the playoffs. Campbell’s thoughts?
“It appears that Mr. Hartnell was attempting to let up on delivering a check to an opponent that was in a vulnerable position,” he said.
c) Despite supposedly always requiring hard evidence on rulings, Campbell suspended Milan Lucic during the 2009 playoffs for one game after he apparently cross-checked Habs center Maxim Lapierre. This was Campbell’s reaction:
“While it is unclear whether Lucic’s glove or stick makes contact with Lapierre, what is clear is that he delivered a reckless and forceful blow to the head of his opponent,” said Campbell.
d) Hurricanes forward Scott Walker sucker-punched Aaron Ward late in a game during the 2009 postseason and had his automatic suspension overturned. Walker scored the series-clinching goal in OT of game seven.
e) And of course we can not omit what Mr. Campbell so eloquently said about the Savard incident:
“I know Matt Cooke is a repeat offender, he’s been suspended twice in the last year,” Campbell said, according to TSN of Canada. “I can’t suspend Matt Cooke for being a repeat offender, I have to find a reason. Right now our rules say that shoulders to head are legal. Matt Cooke did not jump, and did not do anything that we found illegal in his actions even though again you don’t like what happened,” added Campbell.
Judging by his snarky comments in the past about Savard, who has missed every Bruins game this season while battling post-concussion syndrome, Campbell very well might have been hiding a feeling of contentment after giving Cooke a pass for his deplorable actions. But, thanks to a few emails he couldn’t keep hidden, content is just about the last thing Colin Campbell will be feeling when this fiasco jumps to the forefront of hockey headlines.