NHL backs Colin Campbell

NHL Senior Vice President and Director of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell is taking heat for...

NHL Senior Vice President and Director of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell is taking heat for e-mails he sent three years ago to then NHL head referee Stephen Walkom. (CRAIG ROBERTSON/QMI Agency)

CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:36 PM ET

So, can a guy who criticizes his employees for actions that affect his son continue to do his job?

If the guy has the backing of his employers, he can.

This is now the situation NHL executive vice-president and director of hockey operations Colin Campbell finds himself after e-mails in which he criticized a referee for calls involving his son, Gregory, resurfaced after some nice spade work and deductions by blogger Tyler Dellow, a Toronto lawyer.

The league is standing behind Campbell, although the optics aren't good.

"As senior executive vice-president of hockey operations for the National Hockey League, Colin Campbell is required to analyze and assess, candidly and directly, the performance of every member of the hockey operations department -- including those of all on-ice officials," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said in a an e-mail Monday.

"He also is required to execute the direction of the 30 clubs with regard to standards of on-ice rule enforcement as well as on-ice player conduct. In the execution of those rigorous and challenging duties over 12 seasons, Colin has been thorough, thoughtful, professional and scrupulous; his integrity has been impeccable, and he has no role whatsoever in matters pertaining to games in which his son plays. Colin Campbell has the complete confidence and support of the National Hockey League, as do all members of the hockey operations department."

Dellow rooted through the e-mails that became part of the public record (and were reported) when former NHL referee Dean Warren filed a wrongful dismissal suit last year.

The bottom line: Dellow figured the following e-mail from Colin Campbell to then director of officiating Stephen Walkom (now back on the ice) referred to a penalty called on Gregory Campbell of the Florida Panthers against Boston's Marc Savard, a player Colin Campbell coached with the New York Rangers:

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 [bleep]. 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] ... Warren and [referee] out of [club's] games. Give them to [referees].

"It's much ado about nothing," Campbell told TSN.ca. "Stephen (Walkom) 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."

Warren's work was already under inspection, so it might have been a coincidence that one of the calls Colin Campbell didn't like involved his son. Did Campbell tell Walkom to keep Warren from refereeing his son's games ("Warren and [referee] out of [club's] games.")? If so, then that's not good, but it is hardly clear in the e-mail.

There are those who might look at this and say because Campbell apparently thinks Savard is "a little fake artist," that is why Matt Cooke wasn't suspended for his hit on Savard last season. But those people would be ignoring the fact that at the time of the Savard incident, such a hit was still ruled to be legal in the NHL.

I don't think there is enough evidence here to definitely say Colin Campbell allowed personal bias to influence the performance of his duties.

But I can understand people who might look at those e-mails and question Campbell's impartiality.

Campbell's job is tough enough.

It just got tougher.

chris.stevenson@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/CJ_Stevenson


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