If Bruins center Gregory Campbell is benefiting from nepotism right now, it’s impossible to tell.
So far through 15 games of Boston’s season, Campbell has accumulated 35 penalty minutes, including nine minors. Unless that total is a reflection of referees calling just a percentage of the infractions Campbell commits, everything seems to be on the up and up.
But that doesn’t mean it has always been the case. Dean Warren, the ex-NHL referee whose court case this week brought to light the Colin Campbell emails from three years ago involving Campbell’s opinions on refs and players alike, was a guest on the Greg Brady Show on the Fan 590 in Toronto today. Warren continued to call into question the elder Campbell’s integrity as the NHL Senior Executive VP of Hockey Operations.
“I recall one the other day specifically. I was talking to a fella about it the other day. I called a penalty late in the game against Florida,” Warren told Brady about a game featuring Gregory Campbell. “And Stephen Walkom was the director of officiating at the time, and he called me the next day and he said Mr. Campbell doesn’t think it’s a penalty. And I said, well the guy ran him down from behind, the player got hit, went headfirst into the boards, I don’t know how you can’t call it a penalty. And I said, as a matter of fact, I kind of wondered should I have given a game misconduct as well as a penalty.
“And I do know at the time that Stephen Walkom said look if I’ve got to listen to Colin Campbell anymore, I’m going to slit my own wrists. That kind of gives you an indication of Mr. Campbell certainly ruling or making decisions on games involving Florida and his son’s team.”
Brady asked Warren how Colin Campbell’s position affected Gregory Campbell on the ice.
“I don’t know if it affected his play or not,” said Warren. “I knew the referees knew who he was and maybe to some degree gave him a wider berth, I don’t know. Certainly not in any games I officiated. And I know some of the senior guys that got a lot of integrity wouldn’t let that affect them. But, do you help out your boss’s kid a little bit? I don’t know.”
At first, you might think: great, the Bruins should have Colin Campbell and the league’s officials on their side. But to me, this could mean more trouble than the Bruins bargained for by acquiring Campbell from the Panthers over the summer.
As long as Colin Campbell is in the position he holds — and there are no indications he plans on relinquishing his job any time soon — there’s going to be a slight smell of impropriety. No referee on the ice is going to want to give even the slightest reason for anyone to believe he’s giving a player preferential treatment. Thus, they’re going to be more sensitive. When in doubt, they’re probably going to call the penalty on Campbell, or his Bruins’ teammates, every time.
This email scandal has now made it public knowledge to fans, players, coaches and general managers alike that Colin Campbell takes an extra interest in games involving Gregory. But now it’s not about meeting the needs of ones boss. It’s about maintaining ones integrity and making sure one can work in the NHL during and after the Colin Campbell rein. It’s about avoiding becoming part of the scandal. If you’re decision-making process always rules against the boss’s kid, you cannot be seen as placating the boss.
In his only public remarks on the matter so far, Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli would only say, “We expect the league to be fair to us. I think we’ve been treated fairly.’’
But Chiarelli should be working the proper back channels to make sure something is done to prevent his team from being victimized by bias for or against from Campbell and his minions. It’s not enough that Campbell says he doesn’t get involved in matters involving his son and his son’s teams. Warren’s statements and the exposed emails prove otherwise.
Beyond Chiarelli, president Cam Neely and owner Jeremy Jacobs should be working the phones and maybe even asking for a meeting with the commissioner to make sure the league is looking for a solution to this problem. If Campbell won’t resign, then he can’t be the be-all end-all as far as discipline and he can’t have so much interaction with the on-ice officials, directly or through an intermediary.
Really, this is a league-wide problem. Another team might someday acquire Gregory Campbell. Or maybe there’ll be another son of another NHL higher-up to come along. But in the here and now, this is a Bruins’ problem and the brass has to nip it in the bud before it costs the club on the ice.