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Saturday Night's All Right for Irresponsible Journalism: Thoughts on the Ron Maclean/Alex Burrows controversy

This is obviously a little late to the game, but Dan Murphy weighed in yesterday with his thoughts about Ron Maclean's segment last Saturday on Hockey Night in Canada and it was the first thing I've read that really captured how I felt about the matter. I haven't read everything out there, but compared with what I have read this seems to be the sanest and strongest take on the matter and it inspired me to share my thoughts about the incident.

Three things in particular really frustrate me about Maclean's actions:

1) The complete absence of any attempt at impartiality.

Media is always biased, and HNIC seems to be moving more towards having opinionated commentators not named Don Cherry, but if you're going to do a story at least make a token effort to present the other side of the story. Part of this is Maclean's casual assertion of questionable truths as hard facts. An example of this is

"I can't imagine [Auger] said "I'll get you." We all agree on that."

Uh, do we Ron? Or is the fact that people don't agree on what Auger said one of the major reasons for this whole mess?

2) The cherry-picking of examples of Burrows' actions. As Murphy says,

Did anyone else think the transgressions that the CBC showed weren't all that disgusting? Burrows with a slight spear on Bouchard; Burrows leaves his feet for a hit; Burrows shoves a guy from the bench; Burrows trash-talks players prior to a game and during TV timeouts. Are you kidding me? What's the big deal? Not big enough for a suspension obviously.

Or, as canucklehead666 wrote on this blog two days ago,

Most alarmingly, the focus on the story was past transgressions of Alex Burrows, painting him in a light that even such noted dirty players like Sean Avery and Chris Pronger haven't seen.

Yes, Alex Burrows plays on (and frequently crosses) the edge. But so do countless player throughout the league. I guarantee that you could assemble a similar highlight package for at least 50 players in the league and it would be as damning, if not more so, than the one they showed on Burrows. But, as media outlets who I generally consider less credible than the CBC know all too well, you can cast anyone in pretty much any light if you cherry-pick the evidence effectively.

3) Ron Maclean's need to be the league policeman

Ron Maclean is a knowledgeable and clever hockey TV host. Maybe it's years of sitting next to the overly-opinionated Don Cherry and biting his tongue, but when Maclean gets a chance to an air an opinion he can do so in an annoyingly pious and arrogant. In this instance, apparently Ron Mclean felt the need to play Sherlock Holmes for the NHL by exposing years of Burrows' transgressions - as if the league wasn't freakin' aware of this already. For me, the most striking line from the Murphy piece was this point:

The diving call Auger made on Burrows in the Nashville game was the second diving penalty of his career. The first happed in 2006. So if Burrows has been on a watch-list for quite some time then he must be playing pretty cleanly.

Huh, you'd think a guy who Maclean claims has such a spotty history of "chicanery" would have, y'know, received more diving penalties or suspensions in his career.

Apparently if Maclean ran the league it would by an idyllic place in which he would rule as a fair arbiter of hockey judgment. And apparently he feels the need, on this issue, to make it a personal crusade in which he is the shining knight who saves the NHL from its own inability to police itself.


I could carry on - I have the video playing as I write this, and I keep hearing things that just anger me. I have lost a lot of respect for Maclean because of this. He seems content to present a slanted point of view so long as it supports his personal point of view. There are millions of people out there who do this - fortunately they don't have a platform as large as Hockey Night in Canada on which to air their views.

Having that platform, and the legitimacy that it grants, makes Maclean's actions nothing better than irresponsible and biased journalism.