When the words “accountable” and “accountability” are said nearly a dozen times during a five minute interview, you’ve had a rough week.
We’ve all had rough weeks, and maybe you’re finishing up one right now. Maybe that cute chocolate lab puppy you bought for your kids still isn’t house trained. Maybe you were forced to eat your own beard.
But no matter how bad your week was, you didn’t have to face the scrutiny of hockey fans with keyboards. All of them.
Colin Campbell’s week in the headlines (is there a week when he’s not in the headlines?) has been ripped straight from the script of a daytime soap opera. Campbell is responsible for the invention of the Wheel of Justice, and as such has used his power to decide the punishments for the many brutal hits seen in the NHL over the past year.
So when a chain of e-mails he sent to Stephen Walkom, the NHL’s former director of officiating, was uncovered earlier this week as part of a wrongful dismissal suit by former referee Dean Warren, fingers were pointed and eyebrows were raised.
Campbell used locker room talk from the mouth of a venting hockey dad to address calls involving his son Gregory Campbell. The most damning remark in the e-mails came when Campbell called Marc Savard the “biggest faker going.” This is the same Marc Savard who left the ice on a stretcher last year after a Matt Cooke hit, and Cooke did not receive a suspension.
With the softball lobbing panel of Versus as the judge and jury, Campbell responded to the e-mail controversy in one of his first interviews since Colie-Gate began Sunday:
Campbell also spoke to a more direct David Amber of the NHL Network. He provided reasoning for his language regarding Savard, who at the time was on the NHL’s list of noted embellishers (see: fake artists). It was a period when the league was trying to crack down on players like Savard, Maxim Lapierre, and other frequent floppers:
Within his circle of NHL executives, Campbell’s standing hasn’t taken a hit. It’s fun to speculate about what goes on behind closed doors, but we can only go by what’s said publicly by Campbell’s colleagues. The kingpin of all league executives was the latest to fire a salvo across the bow of public scorn today.
Commissioner Gary Bettman said on his weekly radio show 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.”
The outrage will die down, and has already to some degree. But after each hit and each suspension, Campbell’s e-mail exchange will still be firmly lodged in the mind of any hockey fan with a critical eye, which is every hockey fan.
And that alone makes Campbell’s rough week more than a public relations nightmare. It was a resounding defeat in the court of public opinion.