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Colin Campbell Criticizing John Tortorella? Really?

"There is no acceptable explanation or excuse for commentary challenging the integrity of the League, its officials or its broadcast partners," said NHL Senior Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell. "People can disagree with calls by officials on the ice, but even in instances of the utmost frustration there is no justification for speaking as inappropriately and irresponsibly as Mr. Tortorella did."

Of course, Colin Campbell is probably a little sensitive about the fact that he had to resign as the league's disciplinarian because his actions directly called into question the NHL's integrity. Oh, you thought that he retired from that spot in order to get a fresh pair of eyes on the job? Well, puckurgently called it and there's been no change. He wanted to spend more time with the family? I'm sure Gregory misses Take Your Dad To Work To Threaten The Refs Via Blackberry Day. Mostly, it's because he at the very very least gave every tinfoil wearing hat and any logical fan more than enough reason to suspect that one of its highest officers was manipulating the system to benefit his son.

Anyway, enough of an intro, time to contrast two situations where the league's integrity was called into question.

Who Did Colin Campbell Call "A Little Fake Artist"? - Tyler Dellow, November 14, 2010

I mentioned the Savard thing on Twitter and @Texas_Gal, a Boston lawyer (I think Twitter is made up entirely of journalists, bloggers and lawyers) points out that Matt Cooke wasn't suspended for concussing Marc Savard last year. Did Campbell's apparent loathing of Savard play into it? Who knows. In fairness to the NHL, it's amended the rules with respect to hits to the head since then. This, though, is one reason that you don't want people judging cases in which they have personal relationships with parties; if nothing else, the optics are terrible.

Astute observers will likely notice that Marc Savard is now out of the NHL in large part because of that headshot as well as the culture of permissiveness that he fostered during his years of ineffective policing of the NHL.

Have Savard emails exposed NHL's Colin Campbell as corrupt? - Greg Wyshynski, November 15, 2010

The Colin Campbell Emails aren't as much a revelation as much as a confirmation for his critics. They reveal criticism of officials who dared call disputed penalties on his son Gregory Campbell, now a forward with the Boston Bruins. They reveal the candid, petty assessments by an NHL executive on the league's on-ice officials' performances.

And, most scandalously, they reveal a long-standing grudge Campbell holds against Bruins center Marc Savard... and fans across the NHL are now wondering if that grudge may have come into play when Campbell let Matt Cooke off without a suspension for concussing Savard last season.

Have these revelations damaged Campbell severely in his position as the NHL's disciplinarian? Or are they just a professional embarrassment and a tarnish on his reputation?

Were they a tarnish on his reputation? Sure, among fans. Among the media? Let's put it this way: for the majority, it was impressive how they managed to polish his reputation while carrying his water. But that's in my next pack of drive-by cheapshots in the meantime Qris Johnson shamed some members of the fifth estate pretty well:

The Wrong Questions: Colin Campbell And The Media's Poor Response - Qris Johnson, November 15, 2010

So what questions SHOULD people like Bob McKenzie, Elliotte Friedman, Greg Wyshynski and other big name hockey commentators be asking? How about these:

  • Is it true that, as was suggested by the ruling of Warren v. National Hockey League, that penalties called against Gregory Campbell were a major factor in his father's pushing for Warren's firing?
  • How often does Colin Campbell bar referees from officiating for certain clubs after a bad call?
  • How often does Colin Campbell direct his subordinate, the Director of Officiating, to investigate calls against his son?
  • How often do calls against Gregory Campbell influence his father's decisions regarding which NHL referees should be let go?
  • How often does Colin Campbell complain to the Director of Officiating about calls he has not even seen, and what percentage of these incidents related to his son?

Question three is pretty interesting considering Dellow's follow up which showed an instance when Campbell harassed Walkom about a call that he heard on the radio which as we all know is a bastion of impartial observation. Oh and he was assigning bad refs to particular games in order to punish players he hated.

Obviously Tortorella offered up a contrite apology in which he acknowledge that his outburst was uncalled for and completely out of line. Fair play to him. But if I were him I might find it pretty galling to be lectured by Colin Campbell about the perils of questioning the league's integrity. And as a fan, I'm not the least bit surprised that both Tortorella and Campbell's situations, a year apart, were both taken as open and shut cases.

The overwhelming response to Tortorella's comments in the media have basically boiled down to "Aww geez, can't say that. He's gonna get fined." Which is the right approach. There's no proof that the NHL did anything to create an exciting Winter Classic other than hire wildly inconsistent referees. Tortorella isn't going to produce a smoking gun and he was just like any angry fan (read: me) that just hates how inconsistent refereeing in the NHL can be on a nightly basis. Meanwhile, in the case of good ol' Colie, there was certainly more than enough proof that there had been some out of order interference by Campbell. How was that treated? With softball questions which saw the answers treated uncritically and accepted without follow up bookended by fawning profiles discussing "Colie" and his amazing integrity.