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Jason Chen

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I think everyone's a little tired of the Stephane Auger-Alex Burrows incident. What had been said to Auger behind closed doors won't be revealed, but it'll probably be along the lines of, "well, you know, just keep your mouth shut before the game and watch who you talk to." The NHL was in a bit of a pickle here because they can't pick sides - whatever side they choose, it sends the message that the NHL acknowledges that they have refs who cannot stay impartial during a game but are really refusing to do anything substantial about it. That's not mentioning that the NHL Officials Association will be very unhappy if the NHL takes Burrows' side. I think by creating less of the situation the NHL really has avoided what could've been a big controversy - Burrows has a history and as does Auger.

What really irks me though, is that some people are still willing to dig into Burrows. More specifically, Ron MacLean's telecast last night (part 1 and 2) against the Penguins. I agree with Alain Vigneault's post-game conference that MacLean (a referee by training but also ironically been one of the most critical observers of the lack of consistency in NHL-level refereeing in recent years) took some unfair potshots at Burrows. Colin Campbell joined MacLean in the telecast and a few of his answers also really shed light on the current situation in the NHL's discipline office.

No one other than Burrows and Auger knew what happened on the ice in that January 11 game, but to me, I think MacLean delves into one assumption too many in his analysis (part 1, 1:50-2:15). He claims that Burrows embellished the hit (I think he did too) but stayed on the ice (or "played dead," in Ron's words) even when the Canucks trainers came onto the ice and stayed there long enough to ensure that Jerred Smithson got five and a game misconduct. The NHL made the right move and rescinded that game misconduct after Nashville GM David Poile filed a complaint, but here's where it gets confusing. Colin Campbell specifically says that it could've been a "two-minute penalty, no problem" (part 1, 3:05) and rescinded the misconduct also in part because that "two or three" (part 1, 2:38) could mean a future automatic one-game suspension. Okay, let me get this straight: Smithson's hit on Burrows could've been two minutes or fifteen minutes or one, two, maybe three-game suspensions? To me, while I don't think it is the most relevant factor, shows the inconsistent refereeing from top to bottom. The NHL doesn't really have a set standard for anything. Case in point, Campbell notes that Burrows was not suspended for his punch on Zack Stortini because he felt that it was unfair to Mike Gillis and the Canucks to not give them more warning (part 2, 0:27-0:45). Thanks for your sympathy Colin, but the NHL office would look more credible if they made sure there was a set standard for fines and suspensions. Forget about putting the opposition team in a pickle - it's their problem, not yours. I can hear Gary Bettman singing the same tune last year, "well, I just didn't think it'd be fair to the Flames to ice less than 18 skaters due to their own cap managing failures because I'm such a gosh-darn nice guy. By the way, can my forehead by any shinier?"

MacLean doesn't help his own cause any further when he refuses to believe any part of Burrows' story: "I can't imagine he said, 'I'll get you.' I think we can all agree on that" (part 1, 4:40). No, Ron, I don't agree. At this point I think that whole "what he said" thing is circumstantial and there is a clear lack of hard evidence to prove either side's story. MacLean's a referee and I think even he would be hard-pressed to say that Burrows' interference penalty late in the third against the Predators was absolute junk. Burrows is an intelligent hockey player and he plays with a lot of emotion so I can't really see that something he said out of frustration and anger was completely false. Let's not delve into too much psychoanalysis, but to Burrows, it was more than just about "me vs. him." In his post-game he repeatedly said that it wasn't fair to the fans or the team. Taking a page from MacLean's Book of Poor Assumptions, I'm going to assume that Auger clearly saw this as a "me vs. him" incident. He was clearly upset that Burrows had make him look awful back in December - Auger even said so himself according to Campbell (part 1, 5:33). There haven't been any reports denying that. Auger refused to comment after the game and still hasn't said anything since.

But never mind the whole incident, who was wrong or who was right, MacLean was more "upset that he [burrows] said it, that he implied that your referee, Auger, that night was out to get him and he actually might've influenced the outcome of the hockey game and the coach corroborates with the accusation" (part 2 3:11-3:23). From the get-go, it was clear that MacLean didn't have much respect for Burrows and is obviously engaging in some one-sided politics here. For me, the bigger issue is that a NHL player who has been in this league for some time is calling out a ref for some awful calls by insinuating that he was targeted but yet the league hasn't done anything but dish out a measly $2,500 fine and a good ol' talking to with Auger. I'm not MacLean-level outraged with the situation but I'm not particularly happy with it either. With the type of punishments being handed out these days, this is about as fair as they come. Auger won't be reffing another Canucks game for quite some time so the NHL seems to think they have little to worry about.

In the end, I don't think MacLean's telecast with Campbell really solved anything. We only re-discovered what we knew already: that Burrows is a diver, Ron is not a fan, and that Burrows' criticism of the officials seems to be more important than the fact that the NHL may have a problem with biased referees.

Sorry, Mr. Auger, but I couldn't help myself.

<img src="http://www4.pictures.gi.zimbio.com/2007+NHL+Headshots+g3Ww7DZGk9xm.jpg"class="imageFloatRightFramed"><img src="http://img.thesun.co.uk/multimedia/archive/00459/SNF2788I_280_459087a.jpg"class="imageFloatLeftFramed">

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MacLean is sucking up to the NHL I like what Bob Erie had to say about Burrows Its better to speak out than hide in a corner what Burrows did was just and right.

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As a fan, I felt cheated in that preds game. A sick taste was left in your mouth after that reffing performance. Im pretty sure that was a really common feeling in Vancouver last week. Why would the NHL advocate that behavior? I hope they realize that they will need a PR makeover for this. Maybe they could be as drastic as say, going back to a one-ref system. Now that would improve their public image, don't you think!

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VanIsleNuckFan, that's a great point. The NHL isn't necessarily advocating biased reffing, but it certainly isn't really doing anything to address the issue.

I don't think the NHL will ever move back to the one referee system but something needs to be done. I'm hopeful and believe that the Auger/Burrows fiasco is an isolated incident.

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Damn.

I usually like MacLean. Still do, but agree with everyone else that it was very one sided. Maybe the fact that he was a ref at one point has something to do with it.

Props to Coach V and Mike Gillis for sticking up for one of their most talented and competitive players.

Hopefully this story dies off though.

Getting tired of hearing about it. Plus, there's so much more interesting things to talk about in regards to the Canucks this year.

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McFly, I totally agree there is more to talk about this year, especially considering the play of Henrik Sedin. It's been a week of distractions for the Canucks but based on their play against Pittsburgh it seems as though they've already put it behind them.

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I have always been a fan of Ron and felt that he was a good combination of old style hockey sense with and open mind to the new game. But this interview definitely felt one sided. And instead of addressing weather or not the calls against the Nucks during the Nashville game were bias or not, it was more of an assassination of character against Burrows and more of a PR dodge of the real issue of a ref being able to do their job without prejudice. Very unprofessional of all parties in this one and I do hope this is all forgotten very fast and we can all get back to the season at hand.

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Ron MacLean has since then refused to apologize or retract any of his statements and acknowledges his bias. Needless to say, I think whatever he will have to say won't hold much water anymore. Don Cherry was always the one that needed to be held in check once in awhile but I guess it goes both ways now.

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I don't see any reason not to believe Alex. Ron and Don have no credibility with me on any subject, both should have retired years ago. They both seem to be on Bettmans "Team America" with a mission to promote hockey south of the border while destroying it here in Gods Country. The CBC needs to clean their house as much as the NHL Officials Assoc. needs to clean theirs.

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