Papers question reasons for resignation

TORONTO -- The NHL is facing an officiating controversy after newspaper reports questioned the reasons behind the resignation of its director of officiating, Andy Van Hellemond.

The NHL announced Friday that Van Hellemond was stepping
down from his post. It also said he was going to continue to be
a consultant to the league.

But The National Post and The Globe and Mail newspapers subsequently reported that Van Hellemond had borrowed money from on-ice officials he supervised -- in amounts reported to range from $100 to $10,000 -- raising questions about possible conflict of interest because of the possibility that the lenders got preference for prime playoff assignments.

Van Hellemond is in the Hockey Hall of Fame for his years of
service as an official. He has refused to comment on the newspaper
reports other than to tell The Canadian Press that "It's people taking shots and trying to do what they can do" and that he would have more to say later.

The NHL's chief legal officer issued a statement Tuesday defending all staffing decisions made by Van Hellemond. Bill Daly, who also is the league's executive vice president, said that the league would have no further comment but that, "Having said that, we can say unequivocally that we are satisfied that staffing decisions for all NHL games during Mr. Van Hellemond's tenure were made entirely on the merits of the officials involved."

According to The Globe and Mail, several on-ice officials expressed concern about the loans -- and the potential for favor currying -- at the June annual meeting of the officials' association.

A source told the Globe that those concerns spurred the league to have NHL VP and director of hockey operations Colin Campbell select the officials and have VP of hockey operations Mike Murphy installed as supervisor of the final, which the source said normally would fall to the director of officiating.

Although the Globe's sources were anonymous, one former longtime NHL referee talked with the Post. Mark Faucette, who is appealing his firing last summer, told the paper that Van Hellemond asked him for a $500 loan before a game in December 2002.

"He just said, you know, 'Do you have any extra cash? Five hundred or something like that?' I said: 'No, I don't.'"

The Globe quoted a source it didn't name as saying that Van Hellemond "didn't do anything illegal and he has since paid back the loans."

Van Hellemond, 56, was inducted into the Hall in November 1999 after a 25-year career. He established records for officiating 1,475 regular-season games and 227 playoff games.

He took the job as the league's director of officiating
before the 2000-01 season, replacing Bryan Lewis.

Information from Reuters was used in this report.