NHL defends Colin Campbell

The NHL defended Colin Campbell on Monday in the wake of three-year-old e-mails that surfaced and quoted the league's disciplinarian saying unflattering things about players as well as former referee Dean Warren.

The e-mails, obtained by Tyler Dellow of mc79hockey.com, were taken from last year's Dean Warren hearing. The former NHL referee appealed to Ontario's National Relations Board for reinstatement over what he felt was a wrongful dismissal. Warren's bid was denied.

In those e-mails, however, Campbell, the NHL's executive vice president, is quoted talking to former NHL director of officiating Stephen Walkom about specific calls made on the ice, some of them involving his son, NHL winger Gregory Campbell.

The e-mails also appear to show Campbell calling star center Marc Savard, now with the Boston Bruins, a "faker". They were written a couple of years before Campbell ruled last season on Matt Cooke's hit that left Savard with a concussion he's still recovering from today. Cooke was not suspended.

The league strongly backed Campbell on Monday.

"As Senior Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations for the National Hockey League, Colin Campbell is required to analyze and assess, candidly and directly, the performance of every member of the Hockey Operations Department -- including those of all on-ice officials," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told ESPN.com in a statement. "He also is required to execute the direction of the 30 Clubs with regard to standards of on-ice rule enforcement as well as on-ice player conduct.

"In the execution of those rigorous and challenging duties over 12 seasons, Colin has been thorough, thoughtful, professional and scrupulous; his integrity has been impeccable, and he has no role whatsoever in matters pertaining to games in which his son plays. Colin Campbell has the complete confidence and support of the National Hockey League, as do all members of the Hockey Operations Department."

Daly also said the tone of the e-mail 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 told The Canadian Press. "One of the unfortunate parts of those e-mails is they are taken out of the entire context of discussion. Colie jokes a lot. He has a very dry sense of humor ... 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 e-mails, it's hard to understand the full flavor and context just by reading them."

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 is playing," Daly said. "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 e-mails 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 e-mails.

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

Pierre LeBrun covers the NHL for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.