A new sheriff coming to town
VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Colin Campbell, for years the NHL’s dean of discipline, finally surrendered his video machine and velvet-covered brass knuckles and will be replaced by ex-NHL power forward Brendan Shanahan next season.
Such was the hubbub surrounding the start of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals last night at Rogers Arena. Word of the change of guard came early yesterday, mostly out of TSN (Canada’s ESPN), and was confirmed in the afternoon by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.
Providing a back slap and an “attaboy’’ to the outgoing Campbell, who will continue his vice president duties in a variety of roles, Bettman cautioned potential detractors that it would be “unfair, inappropriate, and simply wrong to suggest that this reorganization in any way is a diminution of Colin or his role.’’
The game is being played at such a high level, noted Bettman, because of rule changes implemented by Campbell.
Uh, what’s a little overstatement between front-office buddies?
“I know it’s one of the aspects of Colie’s job that he hates,’’ said Bettman, referring specifically to the role of disciplinarian.
Bettman added that he and Campbell agreed it was time for someone else to take a fresh look at the position, and those fresh eyes belong to Shanahan, 42, who wrapped up his long playing career in a farewell tour with the Rangers and soon joined the NHL front office, adding credibility to a corporate structure desperately in need of it.
Campbell in recent years became very inconsistent in meting out discipline, especially concerning head shots. In two high-profile cases, in which severe concussions were sustained by Florida’s David Booth and Boston’s Marc Savard, Campbell opted not to punish the perpetrators, each time saying the league’s rule book lacked the necessary language to fine or suspend the players.
Booth was flattened by Philadelphia’s Mike Richards. Savard was hammered down with a blind-side hit from Pittsburgh’s Matt Cooke, long one of the game’s cheap-shot artists. Noting in both cases that he didn’t have the sweeping authority to act under the league’s supplemental disciplinary procedures, Campbell allowed both Richards and Cooke to skate free.
Campbell also came under public ridicule and scrutiny when a series of e-mails from his computer, leaked this season, had him referring to Savard as “that little fake artist.’’
Twice in this space since 2010, I called for Campbell either to resign or be fired for his lack of action, specifically for allowing hits to the head not to be further punished. It was also suggested here that if Bettman did not want to remove Campbell from the job, then the commissioner also should be asked to resign or be fired.
Bettman referred to Campbell’s job as “thankless.’’ No doubt. Especially when not handled with alacrity, vision, and conviction. Let’s see if Shanny mans up and makes the miscreants pay for their transgressions.
It’s a dim memory now If the Bruins win the Stanley Cup on Causeway Street, it will be the first time they have clinched the championship on home ice since May 10, 1970 (see: Flying Bobby statue on the Garden’s southeast grounds).
Clinching on Causeway has become a regular thing for the Bruins this spring. They KO’d the Canadiens (Game 7), Flyers (sweep), and Lightning (Game 7) at the Garden.
But let us remember, when the Oilers won in ’88, sweeping the Bruins out of the finals, it was technically a Bruins “home’’ game even though it was played on Northlands Coliseum ice.
With Game 4 at the old Garden on May 24 tied at 3-3, a transformer blew up, leaving the rink and the teams literally in the dark. Unable to have the generator fixed that night, the Bruins and league officials agreed to have the game essentially canceled and the series resumed two nights later in Edmonton, where the Oilers clinched the Cup with a 6-3 victory.
Had a seventh game been necessary, it would have been played on Garden ice. Although Game 4 on Boston ice never counted, the 40 players in uniform that night were credited with their individual statistics for the game. Ken Linseman paced all Boston scorers in the ’88 postseason, collecting 25 points over 23 games — even if one game never really existed.
Motor mouth The cab driver, who looked to be in his early 60s, said he moved to Vancouver from India some 40 years ago, but his English was still heavily accented.
“Bobby Orr!’’ he said after learning that his customer hailed from the Hub of Hockey. “He vas zee best! I loved vatching Bobby Orr.’’
The ride lasted only 10 minutes, much of which the cabbie used to recite names of Orr’s teammates from the ’70s.
“Cashman and Es-po-zito and Cheevers . . . yes, I know even zee goalies, too.’’
Customer and cabbie both agreed that Vancouver is a splendid, breathtaking city.
“Yes, but it’s all new here, every-ting new,’’ he said. “Boston is old, a veddy old city, and beautiful, too. I vould one day like to see Boston. Beautiful city.’’
Destination reached. Fare paid. The customer thanked the driver.
“Thank you, sir,’’ he said before he pulled away from Rogers Arena. “And you have a good life.’’