Tyler Dellow’s explosive Colin Campbell post.
First, kudos to Tyler for actually doing some investigative journalism. I’ve been doing this stuff pretty much from the beginning and its the first time a blogger has broken a real story, a story that had to be picked up by the mainstream hockey media and it is also the first time the league has been forced to do damage control in response to the blogosphere.
Tyler’s piece also raises fairly serious questions about the mainstream media. The Toronto Star apparently had this story three years ago. Did they misunderstand the significance? Or did they decide to ignore the significance because it was embarassing to the league? Did other mainstream media outlets also have the story and decide to ignore it? I think the answer is probably yes, just based on the response to Tyler’s work. The MSM has pretty much rushed to defend Campbell’s integrity. If I am a hockey reporter who knows Campbell and thinks his decisions are unbiased, there really isn’t a story when I read the emails. If I’m going to defend his integrity when someone else publishes them, I’m certainly not going to be the first to publish them.
As to the controversy the emails generated, I don’t really believe that Campbell influenced the way officials called games involving his son (at least partly because of comments made by officials in Eliotte Friedman’s piece). I can even almost imagine that the emails Colin sent that involved his son were “banter” between he and Walkom and not to be taken seriously.
My problem with all the emails (and not just the ones involving Campbell Jr) is the incompetence they reflect. It is the incompetence – not bias – that makes the officiating so poor and the disciplinary decisions so inconsistent. That’s why the league has a credibility problem. Too many fans now believe officials favour certain teams or make calls to generate action. The perception of bias is probably wrong, but it exists because the officiating is so bad. Campbell’s job is to help the officials improve. That is the only way to eliminate the perceptions and restore some integrity to hockey operations.
The league changed the officiating standards coming out of the lockout and it made the referee’s job much more difficult. In a healthy organization, employees faced with difficult change get support from their superiors. Are the officials supported?
Fans have had to learn to live with a lot more “soft” calls at critical times because there are many more “soft” calls all over the ice. Publicly, Colin Campbell appears to support the officials even when they make mistakes. Privately, blistering emails follow a complaint from a GM. Publicly, Campbell will declare the league wants officials to call the penalties regardless of the situation. Privately, Campbell rails about a call made late in a close game. Campbell’s job is to help the officials improve. Which of them reading these emails won’t see Campbell as a hypocritical asshole? No wonder Friedman reports that he “cannot believe how many officials who spent decades in the NHL are leaving angry.”
I can believe it.
Update: Gary Bettman weighed in on the issue during his radio show. Among other things, he declared that Campbell “takes his service to the game, the teams and the players as seriously as any human being can and he is somebody of the utmost integrity, and that’s the way people around the League view him.”
I wish Bettman had thought to include the officials. Do they think he is fair? Do they think he supports them? Do they think he helps them get better?