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Volume 21 No. 2
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Plugged In: Colin Campbell

Spending more than two decades as a player and coach before joining the league office in 1998, there are few around the NHL who can match the tenure and depth of experience in the sport of Colin Campbell. That history and knowledge of the game is crucial for Campbell in his role as senior executive vice president of hockey operations, where he’s tasked with overseeing all of the league’s rule changes and implementation of things like video replay.

It’s always a tug-of-war between wanting to advance the game with all of the tools that are available in the 21st century, while also keeping the traditions alive.

On making changes to rules like slashing and interference:
One of the things that we try to balance is how do we reward an offensive team, while also keeping the physicality of the game. That was our challenge coming out of the 2004-05 lockout where we had a number of rule changes in an effort to open up the game, which was getting too defensive. Certain people will say the game is too quick now — personally I don’t think it’s too fast, but you have to be careful. It’s an issue we are always working on.

On adding the coach’s challenge in 2015: Once the technology advanced to a point where anyone watching on TV or in the arena saw that a call was missed, it’s something we had to adopt. It’s a hard job for referees out there, where guys are skating 30 miles an hour, and there’s six guys along the blue line and you’re trying to see if someone’s skate is an inch off the ice while also looking at the puck. But we knew we had to get it right, and we still are trying to perfect it. Sometimes it takes five minutes to get the right view or angle of the play to make sure it’s the right call, which gets us a lot of grief from fans and teams, but I’d rather take five minutes now than know we got something wrong.

On balancing hockey’s traditions: I think it’s great to maintain traditions and how things were done when the game was founded, but you also have to advance the sport and take into consideration what fans want to see. I would consider myself a traditionalist, but that doesn’t mean we can ignore ideas that may bring more entertainment and excitement to the game. That’s always a tough sell with the coaches, though. When I was coaching [the New York Rangers], driving home from Madison Square Garden, I don’t think I could have ever said to myself, “I know we lost the game, but man, wasn’t that pretty exciting?” They don’t care a hoot about that, but we have to sell the game.

On future rule changes: We never want to make a lot of changes, but also try to recognize areas where things could be tweaked. We look at equipment and the trends there. There’s the long-standing debate of bigger nets and how that would impact scoring. But to me it’s like making the net larger in the NBA, or increasing the size of the holes in golf — it’s never a guarantee that will lead to something better. I’ve seen some great 1-0 games and 7-5 games I’d never want to see again.

                                                                                                                            — Ian Thomas