There are sometimes as a blogger where one struggles to get the words together to make their post. Then there are times like this, where the situation nearly overwhelms you, and you have to try and reign yourself in, for fear that you might not actually be making sense. Bloggers are different from paid journalists in that for the most part we don't have to hide our love for our team of choice. So when an event like last night's fiasco at GM Place occurs, the natural reaction is: We Got Screwed!! It's something you hear anywhere sports fans discuss the games they love. The notion that the officials' interpretation of the game has somehow affected the outcome.
But when a game official not only delivers retribution over his ego being fractured in a previous match, but tells the player to his face he intends to do just that, there is a problem with the game. Rather than repost Burr's comments, I am going to make a list of all the related articles I can find as a reference at the bottom of this post.
A couple things stand out for me: First off, the support from opposing fans is good to see. It's nice to know that there are hockey fans who can see the big picture here. It doesn't matter who the player is. It doesn't matter what reputation he has. I know officials are only human. They have an incredibly tough job, they have to manage the ebb and flow of a game played at high speed and have to be able to determine if the actions in front of them are penalties. It's the human nature of it all that adds to the excitement of the game. But some things are clear:
1- Alex Burrows is probably the last guy who would want to risk his career with a baseless accusation. Anyone who knows the story of how hard this kid has battled just to make it to the NHL can tell you, he feels like the luckiest guy in the world, but it's his heart and under-rated skill that got him here. Why on earth would he throw that away? The guy has 9 goals in 5 games and was the NHL player of the week. Makes perfect sense he would want to just screw his team over and get suspended, right?
2- There are many people who are lashing out at Burrows, calling him a whiner, and insinuating as a player known for embellishing calls, he should expect nothing less. Shut up and take what you have coming to you. I call BS on that. I don't care who the player is. I don't care who the official is. As a hockey fan, I want... no NEED to know that the game I love is actually decided by the action on the ice and not outside factors. All hockey fans should demand nothing less than integrity from their officials. The league is already dealing with an accusation that a broadcaster neglected to send a feed to the war room in Toronto that showed clear evidence a goal had been scored against the team they were the home broadcaster for.
3- The official at the center of this controversy has a long and damning list of evidence that suggests he is certainly incompetent. From the Shane Doan incident, to Brad May's non-goal, to an incident last season where Burrows was given a game misconduct for cross checking Patrice Brisebois of the Canadiens, Auger's hit parade is well known and ugly. The video shows that Brisebois clearly embellishes the hit. Yet it's Burrows embellishment of the hit by Jerred Smithson of the Preds on Dec 9th that is the basis of the allegation. Of all these incidents though, it's the Doan controversy that really speaks volumes. Of all the guys in the NHL to accuse of a "culturally insensitive" comment, he chooses Shane Doan? This guy's reputation is so lily-white, he's lived in Phoenix since the Jets moved there in '96 and still doesn't have a tan. I grew up in Kamloops watching Shane Doan play, and it was well known that Shane is the kind of guy, through upbringing, that doesn't even mutter the word Damn on the ice. He just doesn't. So instead we had one of the good guys of the game get his name dragged through the mud for almost three years, with politicians weighing in on the situation in one of the most disgusting and disheartening displays of political opportunism I can recall. And in this country, that's saying something.
The NHL has to investigate this, quickly and with a hell of a lot more effort than they applied to the tampering allegations the Canucks leveled at the Leafs. This isn't a case of sour grapes. This isn't about the Canucks losing ground to the Nashville Predators on a night they could have taken 1st place in the division. The integrity of the game is being challenged, and the NHL better pay close attention to recent events in the NBA and soccer world. There are interesting lessons there about what happens when a league tries to sweep the images of corrupt game officials under the carpet. Will Burrows get suspended? Bob McKenzie of TSN this morning on The Team 1040 felt it wasn't likely, but you can probably expect a fine. If this allegation is true, as hockey fans we must demand that the NHL remove him from his position as an NHL official. This is the least they can do for us, as they are now on the hot seat to prove the game is not corrupt, and if so, fix it.
I want to credit the reporters and bloggers who worked their asses off through the night to deal with this story as it was developing:
- Jason Botchford of the Vancouver Province
- Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo Sports Puck Daddy blog
- Richard Loat and JJ Guerrero of Canucks Hockey Blog
- Trevor Presiloski at The Internet Trashcan
Also check out:
- Gross Misconduct Hockey
- CBS Sports
- SLAM Sports
- Preds On The Glass
- Dan Cloutier For Vezina
- Bob McKenzie@TSN
- Updated: Eric Duhatschek at Globe Sports
I will add more in the comments section as they come up. Let's hope that Colin Campbell and Gary Bettman can finally do what is right for the game, as this time it might actually be the same thing as what's best for the bottom line. Finally, I want to say that with all that Burrows has to lose in this situation, it's extremely courageous of him to stand up at something that's been hinted at for years. More to come on this one, as the ball is in the league's court.