Blogs & Comment

Time to discipline NHL’s Campbell

The art of discipline starts with acknowledging that youve failed to get your employees to improve on their own, and ends with sending consistent messages about punishment if they dont shape up. The NHL these days is not doing either. Anyone who has watched the playoffs this year must be shaking their heads at some of the decisions the leagues top cop Colin Campbell has handed down. Indeed, the only thing consistent about Campbells decisions has been his inconsistency.
Lets review two of his more contentious decisions (and they were his first and most recent ones). His first was to give Philadelphia Flyer Daniel Carcillo a one-game suspension for punching Pittsburgh Penguin Maxime Talbot in the head in the waning minutes of a game out of reach. He also fined Philly coach John Stevens US$10,000 for allowing that to happen, declaring that the NHL will not tolerate attempts by clubs to send a message late in a game when the outcome had been determined.
But Campbell yesterday did a 180, apparently deciding to endorse the very message he had decried four weeks earlier. He refused to suspend Carolina Hurricane Scott Walker for sucker-punching Boston Bruin Aaron Ward in the head late in the game on Sunday. In fact, he overturned the referees on-ice decision to hand out a misconduct, a fighting major and a minor for instigating that would have resulted in an automatic one-game suspension because it occurred in the last five minutes of the game.
Never mind that Walker was the third man into the altercationanother NHL no-noand may have broken a bone in Wards face, whereas Carcillos blow did little damage. Instead, Walker was given a US$2,500 finehardly punishment at all. Campbell is making the NHL look bush league at a time when it needs to save face in the southern U.S. In short, his inconsistency
* means players wont change their ways; * annoys the leagues employeesthe players and coaches; * angers the leagues fansi.e., its customers.
Conspiracy theorists might suggest Campbell is making these ridiculous decisions to take the heat off his boss, NHL czar Gary Bettman, who has been portrayed rather unflatteringly by the media lately. But the truth is Campbell just cant make up his mind about what the NHL wants from its playersand that means his actions are doomed to fail.
Hockey is a hard-nosed sport and dust-ups are inevitable. When they happen, the referees are the ones who are supposed to decide on the appropriate punishment. Senior managers like Campbell should only step in as a last resort on altercations that are egregious. Only one event of that nature has happened so far, when Washington Capital Donald Brashear was given a five-game suspension for blindsiding New York Ranger Blair Betts.
Campbell got that one right, but every other decision hes made has been wrong, because he has contradicted himself time and time again. Campbell is not doing his job and now its up to Bettman to step in and show his wayward lieutenant the error of his ways. If Campbell continues to make decisions and not back them up with any kind of logic, then Bettman should discipline and, ultimately fire him if he doesnt shape up.
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