Colin Campbell, the NHL’s executive vice-president and director of hockey operations, said Wednesday he is mystified that Canadian politicians have revived the Doan controversy. It’s been almost a year and a half since the league cleared the Phoenix Coyotes forward of allegations that he made a derogatory remark to a French-Canadian official during a 2005 game in Montreal.
“I stand by my original comments after our investigation,” Campbell told The Canadian Press. “But I would add to it at this point in time, it’s rather embarrassing to all Canadian hockey fans we’re rehashing this again, particularly when Hockey Canada and Shane Doan are representing and working hard in Moscow right now, competing for our country. It’s ridiculous.”
Members of all political parties have asked to hear why Doan was named captain of Canada’s team at the IIHF World Hockey Championship in Moscow.
The Phoenix Coyotes defended Doan in a statement.
“As a member of our organization for 12 seasons, Shane Doan has been a model of sportsmanship, dedication, and excellence for our organization and the Phoenix community,” the statement read. “He has repeatedly shown his compassion for people through his many goodwill endeavors, and has held himself to the highest moral standards.
“The Phoenix Coyotes are honored to have Shane Doan represent our organization at the World Championships as captain of Team Canada”
Others in the hockey world also rallied around Doan on Wednesday.
“Totally ridiculous,” Canucks head coach Vigneault, a Quebec City native and former coach of the Montreal Canadiens, said in Vancouver. “In the heat of the battle things get said sometimes, a lot worse than being called a French frog or whatever.
“He says he didn’t say it. Even if he did, come on,” added Vigneault. “If our politicians, French or English, if that’s the only thing right now they have to worried about … There’s a lot more important things going on right now in society. It is utterly, utterly stupid, not to say embarrassing.”
Superstar goalie Martin Brodeur of the New Jersey Devils also wished the politicians had laid off.
“It’s unfortunate,” he said in Ottawa before Game 4 of his playoff series against the Senators. “Coming from Montreal, you can understand that people don’t like that when there’s speculation over language and whatever. …
“I know Shane really good and I don’t see him saying that. All these years in the league I never had a problem with it so for me to hear that other people had a problem, I have a hard time to understand it. But everyone has a right to react different ways about situations.”
Senators forward Mike Comrie played with Doan in Phoenix and defended his former teammate.
“If you know Shane Doan, you would assume he would never make the remarks he’s being accused of,” said Comrie.
“I played with him for three years and I never heard him swear. He’s a person people respect.”
Canucks forward Alex Burrows of Pincourt, Que., also didn’t understand why the politicians were fussing.
“I think it’s over the limit,” said Burrows. “I think it’s something that happened two or three years ago.
“The NHL didn’t make anything about it, they probably studied the case and nothing came upon it. Now it goes to the government and they are making a big story about it?
“It’s kind of funny it’s still going on. Hopefully Shane will still be team captain and keep doing the great job for the country.”
While Doan, who denies making a slur, has been exonerated by the NHL, some politicians have questioned the league’s investigation. Campbell says the NHL followed the rules.
“We have a protocol in these situations that we stand by,” said Campbell. “And we use it in every situation where we have accusations regarding slurs or whatever it may be. For some of these politicians to get involved, I would have to think they’ve got other things pending and they should stay out of our business.”
The issue erupted on Parliament Hill this week as opposition parties criticized Doan’s selection as Canadian captain. Members of the Conservative government agreed with them that Hockey Canada should be asked to tell their side of the story and voted with the opposition to schedule a hearing before a parliamentary committee to explain why Doan was named captain.
Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson, chairman Rene Marcil, and senior director Brad Pascall will appear Thursday before the House of Commons’ Official Languages Committee.
They were not forced to testify – but could have faced a subpoena had they rejected an initial request from the committee.
Sport Canada was also summoned, and has also agreed to attend. The agency receives $150 million in federal funding and is responsible for Hockey Canada.
The issue first surfaced in December 2005 when federal Liberal MP Denis Coderre, the former minister in charge of sports, asked Hockey Canada to reconsider Doan’s selection to the Olympic hockey team for the 2006 Turin Games because of the alleged slur.
At the time, Campbell came down hard on Coderre.
“Mr. Coderre should focus on getting re-elected and not on how we run our business,” Campbell said on Dec. 22, 2005. “The NHL manages its business properly and I have discussed this ‘alleged’ incident with Shane Doan and am fully confident there were no inappropriate comments in this incident. Mr. Coderre is getting involved in something without the correct or any information.
“As a Canadian I have tremendous confidence in Bob Nicholson, Wayne Gretzky and staff to select the appropriate people – good people and bring home another gold medal. Coderre should maybe try contributing in a more positive fashion to our Olympic dreams.”
With files from CP sportswriters Jim Morris in Vancouver and Bill Beacon in Ottawa.