Colin Campbell is bad at his job, but that doesn't mean he deserves to be misinterpreted.

 

I don’t want to write this post. I wish I didn’t have to. I don’t want to defend Colin Campbell because I don’t think he does his job particularly well. Really, it’s not entirely his fault. The job he does shouldn’t be the responsibility of just one man. The ire of the NHL’s fans for unfair and inconsistent decisions on discipline shouldn’t fall on any one individual. But it does.

Just because I don’t particularly like the job he’s doing as head of NHL discipline, however, does not mean I disagree with all of his decisions or even the reasoning behind those decisions. Following the decision to not apply any supplementary discipline to Raffi Torres after his Scott Stevens-esque dismantling of Brent Seabrook, the NHL made the admirable choice to be open about the reasoning behind this decision and released the following statement from Colin Campbell :

When Rule 48 (Illegal Check to the Head) was unanimously adopted by the General Managers in March 2010, there was no intention to make this type of shoulder hit to the head illegal. In fact, at that time, we distributed a video to all players and teams that showed a similar hit on a defenseman by an attacking forward coming from the opposite direction behind the net and stated that this is a ‘legal play’.

This hit meets none of the criteria that would subject Torres to supplemental discipline, including an application of Rule 48: He did not charge his opponent or leave his feet to deliver this check. He did not deliver an elbow or extended forearm and this hit was not ‘late’.

Ignoring for the moment the scare quotes around “legal play” and “late,” which could be seen in more cynical circles as a sign of sarcasm, this statement seems quite reasonable. Campbell indicates that Rule 48 does not apply and runs down the list of other infractions that could be suspendable, finding Torres innocent of all charges. He even points to the video that was sent out to all teams when Rule 48 was put in place and, indeed, there is an example of such a hit being labeled as legal.

But many, many people in the media could not accept that Rule 48 did not apply. Most latched onto the phrase “behind the net” in Campbell’s statement and made the astonishing logical leap that Campbell was implying that “behind the net” was some sort of “special hitting zone,” according to Damien Cox, wherein “otherwise illegal play is okay.” Cox’s response is the most absurd of the bunch, somehow managing to compare the Torres hit with the blatant boarding done by Jarret Stoll on Ian White, but others have jumped on the “hitting zone” bandwagon, including Cam Cole, who is taking the opportunity to assassinate Raffi Torres’ character, and Bruce Arthur, who has taken to twitter with a series of increasingly humourous tweets about “behind the net” that completely miss the point.

So now I feel like I am forced to comment on an issue that I wanted nothing to do with, because the story of the Torres hit has become the story of the “special hitting zone” and how the NHL rulebook apparently doesn’t apply “behind the net.” It’s hogwash, bullpucky, and various other less cutesy words.

In his statement, Campbell isn’t saying anything about “behind the net” being a special area in terms of discipline and Rule 48. Instead, it is a clarification of the rule, which states that an illegal check to the head is “a lateral or blind side hit to an opponent where the head is targeted and/or the principal point of contact.” What Campbell is saying in his statement is that when a defenseman is skating behind the net and an opponent comes from the opposite direction, then the hit is not deemed to be lateral or blind side. That’s it. It seems obvious, in hindsight: when two players are coming at each other from opposite directions, of course it’s not lateral or blind side. Can a lateral or blind side hit still occur behind the net? Of course. But when the two skaters are coming from opposite sides of the net, there’s some responsibility on the skater to look where he is going.

There’s no special area “behind the net” that allows hitters to break the rules. All it means is that when two skaters are coming at each other from opposite directions, then the hit is not a lateral or blind side hit. Prior to this decision, some even compared the Torres hit to Matt Cooke’s hit on Marc Savard – a clear lateral, blind side hit – when it should perhaps have been more appropriately compared to Willie Mitchell’s hit on Jonathan Toews: a north-south hit where the hittee was looking in the wrong direction. Do I like hits to the head? No, of course not. I think the rule should be amended. But I don’t like seeing the type of miscommunication I’m seeing right now between the NHL and members of the media.

Part of the miscommunication is that some people are under the impression that all hits to the head have been banned. They haven’t. The NHL board of governors ruled against a total ban on hits to the head. Another part of the miscommunication is that Colin Campbell’s statement doesn’t specifically say that the Torres hit was not a lateral or blind side hit. This lack of clear communication has resulted in this hodge-podge of misunderstanding. Perhaps it isn’t that Colin Campbell doesn’t do his job particularly well; he just needs someone else to write his statements to the media.

 

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41 comments

  1. ChickNuck
    April 19, 2011

    Excellently written. Too bad all the posters on tsn.ca haven’t found this piece yet. Hopefully they will.

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  2. Jake
    April 19, 2011

    such a smart, logical post. thank u

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  3. Andrew Fleming
    April 19, 2011

    Couldn’t agree more. Nice to see a bit of accountability from Campbell for a change, although Torres will probably still want to avoid hitting Gregory Campbell if we meet the Bruins in the finals.

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  4. John Andress
    April 19, 2011

    Your post highlights perfectly for me what has become increasingly clear as this season has progressed and decisions from the NHL have become contradictory and unclear. Nobody, players, coaches, management, media or officials, really have any clear idea of what standard is now to be applied to physical contact in the game. There is obviously a groundswell of opinion that more needs to be done to protect the health and welfare of hockey players operating in a bigger, faster, better armoured arena. This is countered by many who feel that removing any part the physical violence would alter the nature of the game.

    In my opinion the entire hockey establishment has done a woefully inadequate job of letting the players know what is acceptable and what is not. This is due, in large part, to the changing standards within the game as to what is a good hit and what is not. Players have been taught since their earliest days on the ice that a certain level of physical contact is not only acceptable but, in many cases, defines their worth as a player and a team-mate. If we are going to change this mentality it will take time and effort and consistency on the part of all concerned.

    It is time for all parties to sit down together and establish what the standard for hockey is going to be, moving forward. The basis for the standard needs to be the safety and welfare of all players involved in the game at any level. The minor hockey governing body needs to be involved in delivering the message to players at an early age as to what is acceptable and what is not. The various levels of junior and minor hockey need to be involved in reenforcing those messages to those on the way upwards in the game. The NHL and the NHLPA need to establish a standard that all are in agreement on and that is clearly understood and accepted by all parties. Presently, the NHL doesn’t do consistency and one sometimes gets the impression that disciplinary decisions are being taken after consulting a ouija board or magic eight ball first. For the good of the game, they have to learn. Officials need to be part of it too as they must ensure that the agreed standard is fairly and evenly administered, not the seemingly arbitrary penalization that often happens these days. The NHLPA must say to it’s members that your opponents are your rivals, not your enemies, and consideration for the health and welfare of all players is one of the conditions of membership in our union.

    It is only when all parties concerned know, clearly understand and accept the tolerable levels and limits of physical contact that we will lessen the risk to players to a realistic level. It is a violent. collision sport and accidents will always happen but the risk can be mitigated by the good will and co-operation of all concerned.

    It is time for everyone who loves the game to step up and take some responsibility for it’s future.

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    • Daniel Wagner
      April 19, 2011

      I can agree with this. I would love to see the administration of the various leagues, professional and otherwise, to come together and discuss this issue. It’s definitely clear that nothing is clear.

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    • Anonymous
      April 19, 2011

      Oh for sure. Botch tweeted a quote from Daniel saying “We don’t know, you don’t know and I don’t know if the refs know.”

      It’s so up in the air and murky. They need to clear this up once and for all.

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  5. TheWellwoods
    April 19, 2011

    THANK YOU for writing this, Skeeter. I’ve almost lost my voice due to the amount of arguing I’ve been forced to engage in over these past two days. Now, instead of squeaking pathetically at people with whatever little voice I lave left, I can simply refer them here.

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  6. Scott Brown
    April 19, 2011

    Interesting when Cam wrote about Zedeno Chara – http://t.co/c58CM0d – or on former Canucks fan favourite Matt Cooke – http://t.co/DXTdi01 – no one in Vancouver accused him of “character assassination.”

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  7. Timmy Wong
    April 19, 2011

    Somebody please tell me how the Vancouver Sun can both have the amazing PItB and the idiotic Cam Cole under the same banner.

    PItB, you really are the only reason why I go to this website anymore.

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    • Harrison Mooney
      April 19, 2011

      Hey now, we like Cam Cole. He’s a quality dude and a fabulous writer. But we appreciate the sentiment. :-)

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    • Herb Puufington
      April 19, 2011

      You are right about that Cole is a garbage writer almost as bad as Damien Cox

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      • Daniel Wagner
        April 19, 2011

        Couldn’t disagree more. Cam Cole is a great writer who I just happen to disagree with on this issue.

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        • Daniel Wagner
          April 19, 2011

          Do you have playoff tickets to trade? Because I totally have access to deleting and editing posts. ;)

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  8. Jim Patrick
    April 19, 2011

    Excuse me but I thought we were playing a hockey game and not a hitting game. Seabrook was attempting to play the puck, the objective. The puck was loose, up for grabs, Torres blindsided him, target the head, he had no intention of playing the puck. It was a deliberate attempt to injure and he should of had a major and tossed from the game. Want to reduce concussions, ban headhunters.

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    • Daniel Wagner
      April 19, 2011

      Torres was attempting to separate Seabrook from the puck. That is one way to keep a player from playing the puck so that you or a teammate can then do so. To characterize Torres’ actions as unrelated to the puck is disingenuous. To speculate that Torres was deliberately attempting to injure Seabrook is libel.

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  9. Pension Plan Puppets
    April 19, 2011

    Good post. That’s a really well thought out piece. I think that a hit behind the net can’t be lateral but it can certainly be from the blind side as this hit was. The biggest frustration for fans is a combination of:
    1. Torres clearly targeted Seabrook’s head in order to injure him
    2. Torres recently coming off of a suspension for a pretty similar hit
    3. That Seabrook at no point played the puck
    4. The quick rush to blame Seabrook for the hit by many
    5. The NHL ignoring that Rule 48 is not the only rule in their arsenal through which they can discipline a player for a filthy hit.

    The NHL, if they had a lick of brains or guts, could simply use the rule covering “Intent to Injure” in order to deal with hits like this one rather than hiding behind the fact that the league has not had the sense to remove a serious threat to its players.

    Today’s 1 game suspensions of Downie and Kunitz just illustrate what a useless clown Colin Campbell is in his role. I agree with you that he is under pressure because he’s the only one responsible but that doesn’t excuse the awful job he does.

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    • Harrison Mooney
      April 19, 2011

      Intent to Injure is so strange to me. How can we definitively say that someone wanted to hurt someone else? I don’t think Torres wanted to injure Seabrook; he just wanted to make a big hit. Problem is, he did both.

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    • John Andress
      April 19, 2011

      Glad to see that a clairvoyant has finally weighed in on this subject, Pension Plan Puppets. What I saw was the puck, Seabrook and Torres arrive at the same point at the same time. Too bad that Torres was not, unlike you, a mind reader. He would then have known that Seabrook didn’t intend to play the puck at his feet and could have, on the instant, aborted his intention to hit Seabrook and injure him. Tragedy would have been averted. Being able to see into people’s minds so that you can know their intent is, sadly, a talent that too few of us possess. Consider yourself one of the lucky ones since you can clearly read two minds at once..

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      • Jim
        April 19, 2011

        “Arrive at the same time”? One problem with your incredibly condescending (and stupid) reply is that the puck never did “arrive”, now did it?

        It didn’t take any “mind reading” or special powers beyond normal sight. He didn’t have possession of the puck. Period. It was an illegal hit, and it was a hit to the head. This is obviously not Torres’ first offense. A serius injury as a result of an illegal hit should result in a suspension for someone with Torres’s history.

        I don’t know what “mind reading” has to do with it at all. You (and Torres) may have a different “special power”, and that’s seeing things that didn’t happen.

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        • Jon
          April 19, 2011

          Take another look at the video Jim. The puck, Torres, and Seabrook all arrive at the same place at close enough to the same time to allow for Seabrook to be a target of a bodycheck. Seabrook committed the cardinal sin of hockey (especially for a D man) and that was to look back to where the puck was coming from. Torres did none of the things that the rule on intent to injure talk about: no arms up or elbows out. He tried to knock the snot out of Seabrook – this is allowed in hockey. No one gets indignant when two UFC fighters try to punch each other so why are you getting so worked up about this hit. That is hockey – there was no intent to injure and only a Hawks fan would think there was.

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        • John Andress
          April 20, 2011

          I suggest that you watch the replay again before broadcasting your stupidity to the world. You may also want to check tour facts, if accuracy means anything to you at all. The suspension Torres served for the hit on Eberle was the first of his career. Torres’ disciplinary record stands up to scrutiny much better than your record of factual reporting.

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          • JS Topher
            April 20, 2011

            OH dear! I feel like I’ve got Damien Cox in disguise writing multiple comment posts just to confuse and frustrate us all into pulling out as many hairs needed to achieve a world full of people as bald and ignorant as him. Stop your propaganda COX!

            A short vent for people who just can’t understand:
            If you are skating towards me, with your head turned away, that is NOT your blindside. On the same token, if I am skating north and you come from behind me in a north west direction and I look over my shoulder right before you hit me, that IS a blindside hit.
            Blindside has NOTHING to do with which direction your head is turned. IF this were the case, you would have far too many players turning their heads at the last second.

            The fact is, that Seabrook is a defenseman. D-men are taught to play the body first. Torres knows this, Colin Campbell knows this, the refs know this, and Seabrook SHOULD know this (although it could be argued that he might not) regardless, Torres went to play the body as he probably expected Seabrook to, but Seabrook saw the puck coming so decided to play it. Seabrook WAS about to play the puck and that is exactly the reason why he was looking down and away from Torres. There is simply NO other reason for him to be looking away like that while skating FORWARD. If you have any doubts about the location of the puck just watch the replay. The puck is RIGHT there! The fact of the matter is, Brent Seabrook has his crest facing Torres, in the direction he’s skating, and Torres knows this. Torres finished the check he needed to finish and if he were a split second slower, Seabrook would have had the puck on his stick and there wouldn’t have even been a whistle on the play. Pull your heads out of your (expletives) and pay attention to what is ACTUALLY being said.

            Arguing with people like this about a subject like this is like an argument with your girlfriend that started by her asking you how she looks in “that” outfit.

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  10. Scott Brown
    April 19, 2011

    I’m sorry there is such intense jingoism is this town when it comes to the Canucks that it sometimes leaves me exasperated.
    To see a genius like Timmy Wong call one of the most respected men in sports journalism an idiot or Daniel accuse him of character assassination because he took a Canuck to task for throwing the kind of hit that he’s been campaigning against for years makes my blood boil.

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    • Daniel Wagner
      April 19, 2011

      I think it’s possible to criticize Raffi Torres for that hit without assassinating his character. That’s all. I really like Cam Cole as a writer and he’s been great to PITB, but I disagree with him on this issue.

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      • Scott Brown
        April 19, 2011

        It’s a critical piece sure. But I’m not sure where the assassination takes place.

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        • Daniel Wagner
          April 19, 2011

          He refers to Torres as a “serial charger,” “loose cannon,” invoked “intent to injure,” compared him to Steve Moore, etc. It’s the loaded language that I’m taking issue with, making a judgement rather than reporting an issue.

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      • Scott Brown
        April 19, 2011

        Either way. I’m univiting you to our chat tonight – AND i’m taking back your new laptop

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        • Daniel Wagner
          April 19, 2011

          Dang it! I’ve ruined everything!

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      • peanutflower
        April 19, 2011

        totally agree on the character attacks. It’s way out of line. Is Cam’s column supposed to be the antithetical view just to get folks yapping or something? on this Torres thing he’s been somewhat over the top. does he sit and chuckle at the comments perhaps? i actually have to avoid reading him lately because he’s such a debbie downer.

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  11. Steve
    April 19, 2011

    Great post Daniel. You have redeemed my faith in sports writing. :)

    Thank you for explaining how when 2 players come from opposite directions (at least behind the net) that it is not lateral or blind-sided. Except of course if one is skating backwards. You should moonlight as an analyst on TSN to set them straight.

    If one wants to get upset about unjust, unpenalized headshots (which rule 48 is attempting to solve) one should look at this special by Abdelkator: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5yvRStSPYok (skip to 0:26)

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    • Jon
      April 19, 2011

      wow. that video is exactly what rule 48 is supposed to stop and nothing like the hit Torres delivered. Nice work

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  12. CJ
    April 19, 2011

    Great post, now if only you can direct Pratt from Team1040 to your post, and make him read it, maybe he’ll stop his ranting.

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  13. Pilsnerpunk
    April 19, 2011

    Nice article. One of the reasons I can’t believe people are so upset about the Torres hit is because I felt the Stoll hit and now the Kunitz and Downie hits were more dangerous and they only got a game each.

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  14. Buster
    April 19, 2011

    If that is the rule, please explain to me how come Joe Thornton got 2 games earlier this year for coming out from the penalty box 30-50ft in front of a player, skating towards the player, then basically stopping directly in front of the player’s direction of movement, lowering himself to brace for the contact and then letting that player who had the puck but was not looking where he was going, run into him?

    Torres hit a player at a high rate of speed who didn’t have the puck, both coming at an approximately 45-60 angle to the point of contact behind the net. Torres made no attempt to make a play on the puck, and made no attempt to avoid making direct contact with his shoulder to the head of the player who was clearly looking back towards the direction the puck was coming from, and in fact seemed to focus strictly on maximizing the head impact and completely ignore the puck. If he had played the puck at all, the impact to Seabrook’s head would have been much less. This was a clear attempt to injure, not to play the puck or hockey.

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    • Jim
      April 19, 2011

      “This was a clear attempt to injure, not to play the puck or hockey.”

      No kidding!

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    • Jon
      April 19, 2011

      Buster you are confused as to what constitutes a penalty here. You don’t have to “play” the puck to be allowed to hit someone. You are allowed to seperate a man from the puck through the use of your body. Watch the timing of the puck, Torres, and Seabrook. They all arrive at about the same point at the same time. Torres was slightly late but, you are allowed to be a stick length away from a opposing player when he passes or is passed by the puck and still hit him. Torres is within this distance. Watch the youtube link in Steve’s post above and see what the difference is between Torres’ hit and that one.

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  15. Philb
    April 19, 2011

    Thankyou.

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  16. RJTobin
    April 19, 2011

    “bullpucky” ?

    Give me a break, what kind of hockey related sports wirter says that?

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  17. Thanatos
    April 20, 2011

    This is idiocy. You say this hit was legal, but yet in the game it earned a penalty, proving it was NOT legal.

    Can’t have it both ways. With the clear intent to injure, he could be suspended on any number of policies if they wanted to, not just the mystical rule 48. NHL fails again, and players are hurt. Seabrook is out injured.

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    • Daniel Wagner
      April 20, 2011

      That’s quibbling rather than engaging with the argument. Sure, it earned an interference penalty in the game, but it was not deemed to be illegal in any other ways.

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