Blowing the Whistle

Disgruntled NHL officials accuse their Hall of Fame ex-boss of corruption
August 15, 2004

was the NHL’s 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’s 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 “an error in judgment.” 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’t 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. “You’re dealing with a couple of older officials who have an ax to grind because they weren’t in the same physical shape as the younger guys,” Van Hellemond said. “So they banded together and found a way to get rid of me because they were scared that I would get rid of them.”

Those claims are disputed by Mark Faucette, a ref for 19 years before he was let go last year on Van Hellemond’s recommendation. Faucette filed a grievance with the officials’ 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’s recent postseason moves were peculiar. “I have a pretty good idea who’s good and who isn’t,” says Gordie Anziano, a former AHL vice president. “I was left scratching my head during the past couple playoffs, wondering how some of those guys managed to get out there.” Selection of the officials for the 2004 finals was overseen by Colin Campbell, the NHL’s director of operations, who told SI that “we 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.” To some that move came too late. “Andy’s decisions affected the lives and livelihoods of a lot of officials,” says Anziano. “You like to see justice done.” --Lisa Altobelli

COLOR PHOTODAVE SANDFORD/GETTY IMAGES (VAN HELLEMOND) LOAN RANGERFaucette (far left) says Van Hellemond (above, left) asked for cash.
COLOR PHOTOMIKE BLAKE/REUTERS (FAUCETTE) LOAN RANGERFaucette (far left) says Van Hellemond (above, left) asked for cash.