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Colin Campbell of the NHL photographed during the first round of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft at the Bell Centre on June 26, 2009 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Bruce Bennett/2009 Getty Images)
Colin Campbell of the NHL photographed during the first round of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft at the Bell Centre on June 26, 2009 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Bruce Bennett/2009 Getty Images)


Time to change NHL gene pool Add to ...

The question isn't why Colin Campbell should not be fired. It's why wasn't he jettisoned even before his "hockey father" e-mails created a set of messy optics involving the NHL's chief disciplinarian?

We're not talking a Supreme Court justice here, you know?

Yet Campbell's supporters among the game's chattering class have never really taken him to task for mishandling a rash of concussive head shots and blindside hits, so it's no surprise they'd be willing to let "Colie" skate now.

In 2006-07, Campbell sent several e-mails to then-director of officiating Stephen Walkom, which became part of the public record in a wrongful dismissal case in front of the Ontario Labour Relations Board brought by referee Dean Warren against the NHL. In those e-mails, Campbell refers to an incident involving two players whose names were redacted.

Like steroids in hockey and other such stuff, the matter slipped through the cracks in the 24-hour news cycle until an enterprising blogger named Tyler Dellow used the NHL schedule to put two and two together and came up with Marc Savard as the player Campbell was apparently referring to as "a little fake artist," and Campbell's son, Gregory, as the player aggrieved by a high-sticking penalty. The game was played in February of 2007 - three years before Savard was waylaid by a cheap shot from Matt Cooke.

Campbell - in one of those forest-for-the-trees moments that is so typically NHL - did not suspend Cooke, continuing a string of inconsistencies in meting out punishment that have become a flashpoint in the on-going debate on head shots and hits from behind.

The easy thing to do is to say the e-mail matter more impugns Campbell's judgment than his integrity. Even good guys - and remember, in the NHL, everybody's a "good guy" - make mistakes every now and then, no?

Colie's good people: returns calls, does interviews. Good guy - great guy! This is so NHL, isn't it?

This is a league, after all, that sees nuance in the way a player gets knocked out cold by another player with a hit to the head. Really, listening to hockey people debate head shots and hits from behind is like trying to read the small print of a credit card contract. Yet having your chief disciplinarian accuse a player of faking - well, that can be easily to dismissed as the harmless musings of a "hockey father?"

(Who among us, eh?)

It really is time the NHL stop putting former players or general managers - of middling skills or otherwise - in all these executive positions because it's leading to an inbreeding of thought (of which the cock-eyed All-Star Game proposal is just one more example).

The pipeline works for ownership, because it has been a way of gelding the NHL Players' Association through its subtle message to would-be rabble-rousers that it's better to play along with commissioner Gary Bettman than rock the boat if you want a job post-hockey. If it means a few boneheaded decisions are made that get some segments of the media all up in arms, well, who cares?

If the NHL really was serious about supplemental discipline it would hire an impartial person - a retired federal or state or provincial judge or attorney general or some such person - to be its ultimate arbiter.

You want a panel of former players and coaches to make suggestions so the hockey intelligentsia is sated? Yeah, whatever.

Of course, this should have done so long before Gregory Campbell got the yen to be an NHL player - or Colie Campbell decided it was okay to become a hockey parent while sitting in the NHL office.

Time to change the intellectual gene pool, boys. There's a whole, big world beyond the towel-snapping, sophomoric world of dressing-room nicknames.

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