Words cannot express the awfulness of this article by the Toronto Star's Damien Cox, but I'll try. Piece by piece, line by line.
As a precursor, I don't read Damien Cox on a regular basis. I will read him from now on, if only to be inspired that I too could have a career in sports journalism, because if this passes as journalism from a major newspaper's hockey columnist and associate sports editor.
His thoughts are in quotes. Mine are not.
Funny how people are so ready to believe Alex Burrows, and so ready to assume Stephane Auger essentially cheated the Vancouver Canucks.
Probably because Burrows is the only person to have said anything so far. Stephane Auger hasn't so much even said "nope, didn't happen". Generally when it's a he said-he said, if only one side says anything and it's the least bit credible, people believe the side that has actually said anything.
Come to think of it, funny how it's always the Canucks screaming outrage about something. Unless, of course, its a Vancouver fan shining a laser into the face of an opposing goalie. Then, in the words of Alain Vigneault, they're just "great fans."
They sure get unhinged in a hurry over hockey in Vancouver. Geez, years later, you can still get folks all up in a lather over the Bertuzzi-Moore incident, claiming Steve Moore deserved what he got and how he faked his injuries, etc.
Never much moderation out of B.C. when it comes to these things.
If Vigneault said that the fan shining the laser into Kiprusoff's face was a "great fan", Vigneault deserves to be fined, if not fired. I dare Cox to back that up. I am 100% certain that Vigneault was not referring to that fan.
I suppose Cox would know about getting unhinged over hockey, considering he lives and writes about the Toronto Maple Leafs. Toronto - bastion of all that is moderate, reasonable and unbiased when it comes to hockey writing.
Just last summer, Canucks GM Mike Gillis accused the Leafs not once but twice of illegally meddling in Vancouver team business. The NHL essentially laughed and went on to other business.
Laughed and went on to other business is apparently Cox's definition of "fining the Maple Leafs for tampering". It's all more or less the same thing.
Because, of course, it's okay for a head coach to mention other players by name, and then have the general manager go to a foreign country to try to seduce the player(s).
Now Burrows and his accusations against Auger, which have many in Vancouver screaming that justice must be done, how this proves referees carry grudges and how Auger should be thrown out of the sport.
Amusingly, it wasn't just Vancouver that thought things were weird. Opposing players were surprised at the refereeing and the calls.
And what problem does Cox have with people in Vancouver screaming that justice must be done?
For starters, how do we know Burrows is telling the truth?
There's absolutely no corroboration of his story. What we do know is that he's a known dive artist and agitator who is more than happy to fake an injury or a foul if it draws a penalty against an opponent. He believes referees are there to buy into his various cons and acting jobs.
There's lots of corroboration. There's as much corroboration as there possibly could be apart from a microphone picking up the conversation that happened when the two involved were chatting during the pre-game. If Burrows isn't telling the truth, he's a heckuva liar, and one of the smartest and fast-thinking NHL players out there to be that specific and precise with his allegations, all of which are backed up by all of the available circumstantial evidence.
If Burrows is smart enough to concoct that, he should be too smart to say it in the first place.
He's a pretty good hockey player, too. It's just that the nonsense sometimes overshadows the ability, just like his teammate, Ryan Kesler.
Damien Cox's brain: "Hmmm...I'm a hockey writer and I'm writing about a player I have an obvious bias again. Who's another one I can drag into it?? I got it!! Randomly slag a teammate of Burrows!! Problem solved!!"
Auger? Solid, not spectacular ref. Not one of the NHL's best, but solid. To be honest, most nights I couldn't tell you who the referees are any more. It's just not a big factor to me.
"Not one of the NHL's best" is probably the only reasonable thing said in the article. Cox admits he's not paying attention to the referees, and that it's not a big factor. That's how he defends Auger: "I couldn't tell you because I don't know because I don't care. But he's solid, not spectacular, but solid."
I'm not even going to get into whether Auger is a solid referee. Anyone who randomly starts a slander campaign against Shane Doan and can screw up the Brad May goal from earlier this year...well, if that's solid, my goodness, I'm scared to think what Cox considers a bad one.
Oh wait, he wouldn't know because he doesn't care to pay attention. Except when writing articles about defending referees, then he cares. Or something. I'm lost now.
The willingness of so many to accept Burrows' story, however, is just an extension of the way in which many adults feel when they go to the neighborhood rink and watch their kids play. So many constantly harp on referees and accuse them of deliberately falsifying calls to benefit one team or the other.
Not really. The willingness comes from the corroborating evidence, comments from Craig Conroy that suggest this is widespread by saying "don't tattletale", and because Auger has not provided any sort of rationale explanation for what exactly he was saying to Burrows. It's not even a he said-he said at this point.
Let's face it. As a nation, we're a bunch of crybabies and referee baiters.
Am I the only person who read this line and rephrased with: "Let's face it. As Leafs Nation, we're a bunch of crybabies and referee baiters?
Tee-hee. Random potshot! Yay!
To many (say, Leaf broadcasts) the game is nothing more than a constant discussion of officiating calls, how they got it right or wrong or why they missed this or that. Always, there's an underlying message — Pat Quinn is the best at this — suggesting the men in the striped jerseys are somehow dishonest, unmanly and not to be trusted.
Hockey Night in Canada fostered this mentality for years, although it has improved slightly in this regard in recent times.
There's still an attitude in this country that the best officiated game is one in which referees don't make any calls at all but simply give the advantage to the lesser skilled players and the lowest common denominator.
More random shots (Quinn, HNIC, country in general).
I always want to ask those people what they think the refs are out there for. To break up fights, I guess. But not too quickly.
Referees are there to police the game according to the rule book, to be unbiased and defenders of fair play.
Auger, at best, failed at two of these three things (policing and defending fair play). At worst, he's guilty of all three.
I don't know what Auger said to Burrows. But I don't believe Burrows, either, and I don't believe the integrity of the sport has been terribly compromised.
That's fine. You don't believe Burrows because you don't like Burrows. But don't you want to at least know what Auger said? Isn't that a bit important? Isn't it at least a bit important to know what Auger said? Maybe we should at least consider the possibility Burrows isn't a liar?
I do believe the Canucks are making a mountain out of a molehill. But then, they always do.
Because if Burrows allegations are true, the referee directly impacted the course of a game in a biased fashion. And that's a mountain if I ever saw one for the NHL.