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NHL disciplinarian's emails offer glimpse into the workings of the league

NHL Senior VP and Director of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell speaks to reporters in Toronto, on November 9, 2010. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese

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NHL Senior VP and Director of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell speaks to reporters in Toronto, on November 9, 2010. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese

TORONTO - At the very least, Colin Campbell's emails provide a glimpse into the workings of the NHL that is seldom seen.

The league disciplinarian comes across as very blunt in a series of three-year-old messages to former director of officiating Stephen Walkom, which first became public as part of a court case involving former referee Dean Warren last year and received heightened attention Monday after being republished by Tyler Dellow of mc79hockey.com.

Dellow's research allowed him to fill in some redacted information, including a couple instances where Campbell complained to Walkom about penalties called against his son Gregory (a former member of the Florida Panthers who now plays for the Boston Bruins).

The NHL was quick to defend Campbell, who has spent 12 years as the league's vice-president of hockey operations. Deputy commissioner Bill Daly indicated the tone of the emails came as no surprise to those who have dealt with Campbell.

"You have to know Colie and his personality—he's often very direct," Daly said in an interview. "One of the unfortunate parts of those emails is they are taken out of the entire context of discussion. Colie jokes a lot. He has a very dry sense of humour ... so a lot of things he wrote he almost writes tongue in cheek.

"You have to know his relationship with his audience and who he's talking to. That's the problem with emails, it's hard to understand the full flavour and context just by reading them."

Campbell uses profane language in the messages and urges Walkom to find out if a penalty against his son late in an untelevised game was called properly. In a subsequent email, he says he would have had to fine himself had he attended the game where his son was called for tripping—which he refers to as a "weak penalty" that "makes me sick."

Another message has Campbell referring to a "little fake artist" who once played for him. Using that and other information provided, Dellow linked the comment to Boston Bruins forward Marc Savard.

In addition to handing out suspensions and fines, a major part of Campbell's job is watching games and handling complaints from general managers. His duties are suspended when there are incidents involving the Bruins.

"He has no official role whatsoever when it comes to games in which his son his playing," said Daly. "He's not in charge of supplementary discipline for any of those things and he obviously doesn't communicate directly with anybody involved in those games, including the officials."

Campbell's emails first appeared in court documents from Warren's appeal to the Ontario National Relations Board last year over what he thought was a wrongful dismissal. That appeal was denied in October.

Daly said Dellow's research was accurate "for the most part," but indicated the league was well aware of the emails and sees no cause for concern.

"None of this is new to us," said Daly.

Dellow is a lawyer who blogs about hockey in his spare time. The heavy traffic generated by Monday's story caused his website to crash.

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