Colin Campbell was meant to exemplify a force which discouraged illegal, dangerous, tasteless, or otherwise unfair behavior from NHL players.
Unfortunately, several of the choices Campbell made while in that position of employment were unfair themselves. By displaying the questionable (and sometimes downright absurd) actions he took this season, Campbell's inconsistency and blatant favoritism will be easily discovered.
First, consider a play which occurred last season involving the Pittsburgh Penguins' Matt Cooke and the Boston Bruins' Marc Savard. As Savard released a shot in the offensive zone, Cooke skated towards him from the side, stuck out his elbow, and hit Savard in the head.
This was a blatant elbow to the head that was obviously a dangerous and reckless play, considering it kept Savard out of the lineup for two months.
A hit like that is sure to deserve at least two to four games of a suspension. It was not a hockey play and was clearly illegal and careless. What was the supplemental disciplinary action taken by Colin Campbell?
If that's not ridiculously convincing evidence that something strange was going on with Campbell, the Penguins, and Savard, perhaps Campbell's words in a few emails might be more convincing.
In November 2010, former NHL referee Dean Warren submitted emails written by Campbell as evidence against his dismissal. The emails were publicized and analyzed by blogger Tyler Dellow.
In them, Campbell apparently voiced much disapproval with a referee's decision to call a high sticking penalty. In the email from February 2007, Campbell said "The third 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."
The details of the email had been removed to secure confidentiality. However, only one game in February 2007 included a player being put in the box for the third time in the game while shorthanded, with the call being high-sticking.
That player was Colin Campbell's son Greg, then on the Florida Panthers. The player who drew the penalty was none other than Marc Savard.
An NHL official complaining about a penalty call on his son, drawn by a player who was the victim of an elbow-to-head hit that went unpunished? That seems plenty enough evidence to show that Campbell was anything but fair, unbiased, and consistent in his calls.
However, that's before the glaring iniquities of this season have been displayed.
He received no suspension.
Shelley was suspended for two games.
On March 2nd, 2011, Minnesota Wild player Cal Clutterbuck hit New York Islanders' player Justin DiBennedetto from behind into the boards. In response to this, New York's Trevor Gillies checked Clutterbuck from the side into the boards.
Gillies did not hit Clutterbuck from behind or in the head. The only thing illegal with the manner of the hit was the fact that Clutterbuck did not have the puck.
Gillies was suspended for 10 games.
Just six days later, Boston's Zdeno Chara pushed Montreal's Max Pacioretty from the side, and continued pushing at Pacioretty until Pacioretty's face made contact with the glass along the side of the ice. Pacioretty suffered a severe concussion and a fractured vertebra.
So, Gillies was suspended 10 games for hitting someone in a clean manner, in order to defend a teammate.
However, Chara could have broken Pacioretty's neck, and even paralyzed him due to the extremely dangerous manner of his actions. He was not suspended.
The league punished 4th liners Shelley and Gillies for similar acts that the Boston Bruins' leading scorer and Norris-winning defenseman were given a free pass for.
There are differences between the actions that received suspensions and did not. Alberts was not held back by a linesman and was pushing Shelley when Shelley punched him. It would seem that Lucic's action was worse considering those circumstances, yet he was punished less.
Likewise, Gillies and Chara's hits were both from the side and into the boards. The only difference is Chara pushed Pacioretty's face into a glass partition and caused a severe injury. Inexplicably, Chara was not punished at all.
Might this have something to do with Colin Campbell's son playing for the Boston Bruins? Campbell was apparently not allowed to make decisions that involved Boston this past season, but judging by the assertiveness Colin expressed in the previously mentioned emails, it's difficult to believe he had absolutely no affect on the decisions, especially considering how ridiculously unfair they were.
Aside from the blatant favoritism Campbell loved to display, there were also inconsistencies regarding other teams, which still made absolutely no sense.
During a game between the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Islanders on October 30, 2010, Philadelphia's attempted to cross-check Franz Nielson during a face-off. Though Briere only grazed Nielson, Breire was suspended for three games.
During a game between the New York Rangers and New York Islanders on March 15, 2011, Sean Avery cross-checked Justin DiBenedetto in the face during a face-off with just under five minutes to play in the third period. Unlike Briere's grazing cross-check, Avery landed his right in DiBenedetto's face. Avery was not suspended.
The last piece of information regarding Colin Campbell's nonsensical inconsistencies stems from the brawl-filled game on February 11, 2011 between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the New York Islanders.
Aside from the individual suspensions, the Islanders were fined for "not controlling their players."
First, it's worth mentioning the inaccuracy of that statement. Head Coach Jack Capuano is capable of controlling his team. Not only is it realistic to consider that Capuano didn't discourage his players' actions that night, he probably would have encouraged them to get payback against the Penguins.
This isn't the problem here. The problem is that the Pittsburgh Penguins were not fined for "not controlling their players." Since the Islanders were fined for this, Campbell implied that Pittsburgh did control its players.
Look at the Pittsburgh bench at the start of this video. Eric Godard can be seen jumping off the bench for the sole purpose of joining a fight. While Godard received the automatic 10 game suspension for this, saying that this was an example of the Penguins controlling their players is downright absurd.
Campbell's motivations behind his wild, inconsistent and unfair disciplinary actions may never be fully understood. All that is important now is the comfort NHL fans can share knowing he is no longer in charge of that area.
No matter how terrible Brendan Shanahan might be at his new job, there's absolutely no way anyone could be quite as horrible at it as Colin Campbell was.
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