was the NHL‚Äôs former director of officiating over the line? Several of his former charges say that Andy Van Hellemond, 56, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1999 after 25 years as a referee, habitually asked them for loans of $100 to $10,000 to cover gambling debts. These officials also contend that while Van Hellemond paid them back, he dispensed playoff assignments (which can be worth an extra $45,000) based on their quickness with cash. The NHL‚Äôs chief legal officer, Bill Daly, met with Van Hellemond on July 9. Later that day Van Hellemond resigned, though the NHL has retained him as a consultant.
Van Hellemond last week told SI that he bets on horses and has borrowed money from refs, which he said was ‚Äúan error in judgment.‚Äù But he denied the loans were gambling-related and said that in each case he had run low on cash in the U.S. and didn‚Äôt want to pay an unfavorable exchange rate by using his Canadian bank card. No one, he said, was passed over for the postseason because of his borrowing. ‚ÄúYou‚Äôre dealing with a couple of older officials who have an ax to grind because they weren‚Äôt in the same physical shape as the younger guys,‚Äù Van Hellemond said. ‚ÄúSo they banded together and found a way to get rid of me because they were scared that I would get rid of them.‚Äù
Those claims are disputed by Mark Faucette, a ref for 19 years before he was let go last year on Van Hellemond‚Äôs recommendation. Faucette filed a grievance with the officials‚Äô union, claiming one of the reasons he was fired was his refusal to loan Van Hellemond $500 before a 2002 game, which Van Hellemond denies. And some observers feel Van Hellemond‚Äôs recent postseason moves were peculiar. ‚ÄúI have a pretty good idea who‚Äôs good and who isn‚Äôt,‚Äù says Gordie Anziano, a former AHL vice president. ‚ÄúI was left scratching my head during the past couple playoffs, wondering how some of those guys managed to get out there.‚Äù Selection of the officials for the 2004 finals was overseen by Colin Campbell, the NHL‚Äôs director of operations, who told SI that ‚Äúwe understood there was a situation with Andy, so we thought it would be a good idea to be more visible during the finals to make sure we had the best guys possible on the ice.‚Äù To some that move came too late. ‚ÄúAndy‚Äôs decisions affected the lives and livelihoods of a lot of officials,‚Äù says Anziano. ‚ÄúYou like to see justice done.‚Äù --Lisa Altobelli