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First Nations chief Fontaine demands apology from NHL's Campbell for comment

OTTAWA - The National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations says NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell should apologize to Chris Simon for mistakenly suggesting the Islanders forward is receiving drug and alcohol treatment following his latest league-imposed suspension.

Phil Fontaine released a statement Thursday, the day after Campbell announced that Simon would be banned for 30 games, the longest suspension in league history, for stomping on Pittsburgh Penguins forward Jarkko Ruutu in a game last weekend.

During a media conference call Wednesday, Campbell said he hoped the "the actual help he's going to get and counselling he's going to get from the drug and the alcohol doctors" would help Simon "deal with the problem he has."

A league spokesman said Campbell was actually referring to the NHL's Substance Abuse and Behavioural Health Program, which is providing Simon counselling for behavioural management.

Counselling details are kept confidential but Islanders spokesman Chris Botta confirmed drugs and alcohol are "not the issue."

Fontaine said Campbell should personally apologize to Simon.

"I agree with the NHL, and the vast majority of hockey fans, that Mr.Simon must be punished for this unfortunate incident with a Pittsburgh player during last Saturday's game," said Fontaine. "However, it was extremely hurtful to Mr. Simon, and his many fans, including those in our First Nations communities, to hear from Mr. Campbell that such behaviour is related to drug and or alcohol abuse."

Campbell, the NHL's senior executive vice-president and director of hockey operations, refused to comment Thursday.

"I spoke to Islanders coach Ted Nolan last night who informed me that Mr.Simon has been very hurt and embarrassed by Mr. Campbell's comments, even though an NHL spokesman did make a correction," Fontaine added. "Mr. Simon, and all of his fans, would like to hear an apology, especially since it smacks of stereotyping."

Nolan, who like Simon is Ojibway, was also angered by the comments.

"It really bothered me, the implication, even if it was just a careless omission," Nolan told The Associated Press after Wednesday night's game against Buffalo. "These types of things are very damaging for someone in (Campbell's) position to say when he has no factual information. If we said something like that, we'd be suspended. But there are no repercussions.

"Chris has a history of that type of thing and has worked extremely hard to overcome that. That's his personal life, and a statement like that could affect his reputation, and affect the rest of his life. We talk about sensitive issues, but maybe some other people need sensitivity training."

Late in New York's loss to the Penguins on Saturday, with the Islanders trailing 3-2, Simon drew a match penalty when he pulled out Ruutu's leg, sending the forward to his knees between the team benches. Simon then stepped on the back of Ruutu's leg with his skate. Ruutu wasn't injured on the play.

Simon missed the first five games of this season while completing a 25-game ban handed out in March. That was the previous record for an NHL suspension.


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