It's been a roller-coaster week to say the least for Alex Burrows.
Just two days after earning the NHL's weekly honours for tallying back-to-back hat tricks, the Vancouver Canucks winger was fined $2,500 by the league for 'conduct deemed detrimental to the NHL and the game of hockey.'
On separate plays during the third period of Vancouver's 3-2 loss to the Nashville Predators on Monday, referee Stephane Auger assessed Burrows with minor penalties for diving, interference and unsportsmanlike conduct. After the game, Burrows not only expressed his disappointment of the situation, but also raised eyebrows over an alleged interaction with Auger.
"It was personal," he explained. "It started in warm up before the anthem. The ref (Auger) came over to me and said I made him look bad in Nashville on the Smithson hit (during a game on Dec. 8). He said he was going to get me back tonight and he did his job in the third.
"(We're) battling hard for 60 minutes to win a hockey game because every two points are so huge, so important, and because of a guy's ego it just blows everything out of proportion and they're making bad calls and the fans are paying for it and we're paying for it. I think he (Auger) should sit out the rest of the year making calls like that."
And as far as the NHL is concerned, everyone is moving on. Auger was not fined or suspended by the league for the alleged threats, because the evidence just wasn't there.
"We have determined that Mr. Burrows' account of referee Auger's comments to him before the game, and specifically Burrows' suggestion that these comments indicated bias against the player or the Vancouver team, cannot be substantiated," explained NHL Senior Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell. "While Referee Auger engaged the player in a brief conversation prior to the opening face-off, I firmly believe that nothing inappropriate was said and that referee Auger's intentions were beyond reproach."
So here was Dave's question to you: "Did the NHL handle the Alex Burrows-Stephane Auger matter properly?"
And here are the answers that Dave liked best:
"No, the NHL didn't handle this properly. Burrows should be made to wear a pink tutu and ballet slippers so his dives would be more entertaining." - Steve
"People say Burrows was whining, but it seems Auger was doing that first by flexing his authoritative muscles to gain personal satisfaction. Far from professional." - Brad (via Facebook)
"The situation was handled correctly. Players should worry about the aspects of the game they can control and they shouldn't get involved with the refs. Punishment well-deserved." - Justin
"Once again, the NHL blew it. Why doesn't TSN hire a person to watch all on-ice conversations and read lips?" - Brian
"The only way for the NHL to be transparent is to publish both versions of the events. The league's unwillingness to do that leads fans to believe Burrows and puts Auger in a tough spot forevermore." - Francis
"Dave, I will answer your question with a question of my own - Does the NHL ever handle anything properly? Especially when it comes to discipline?" - Brad
"The NHL has seriously dropped the ball on this one. The integrity of the game has been seriously damaged, and their choice of action is to sweep it under the rug. There wasn't even a full investigation. If things like this can happen, the NHL is not even a competitive sport anymore." - Nathan
"Basically the NHL is saying that refs are not there to enforce the law. They are the law! In the words of Jeremy Roenick, "It's a joke, wake up NHL!" P.S. Will the NHL fine me too for speaking my mind?" - Giovanni
"Yes - I think the league handled the Burrows-Auger situation quickly and easily - perhaps not to the satisfaction of the player. But there's a lot more politics in the game over the last 10 years. It used to be so simple and enjoyable." - Patricia
"The NHL may consider the case closed, but the fans in Vancouver sure don't. Auger is going to return to Vancouver at some point and when he does he's going to deal with 18,000 fans chanting angrily at him. The teams in the Northwest Division have enough competition from each other, they don't need it from the refs as well." - Dan
And Dave's Reply To All:
The question was: did the NHL act properly? I'm not sure there's anything "proper" about the way hockey deals with dirty business. If there's a code for fighting, there's a code for a mess like this, too. It's entirely too cute to say that Burrows got what he deserved by blowing the whistle on a ref, but I'll say it anyway.
Burrows' first mistake was no big deal - he tried to embarrass Auger on the ice, and it seems he succeeded. Then he reacted to Auger's response - whatever it was, and it would help to know - by blabbing to the media - a $2,500 misdemeanor.
But here's what Burrows did that cost him any support or sympathy: he tried to get Auger fired. There's a code for that, and the league applied it by laying the entire blame on Burrows. Not that he didn't have a case, but Burrows blew it by trying it himself.