The NHL Gets It Wrong: Fines Alex Burrows Over Comments About Referee

Andy BenschSenior Writer IJanuary 14, 2010

VANCOUVER, CANADA - OCTOBER 5: Alexandre Burrows #14 of the Vancouver Canucks skates during the game against the Colorado Avalanche at General Motors Place on October 5, 2009 in Vancouver, Canada.   (Photo by Nick Didlick/Getty Images)
Nick Didlick/Getty Images

Finally, an NHLer has unleashed his displeasure with the absolutely terrible officiating in the NHL this season, and what does he get for it?

A 2,500 dollar fine for statements that were "detrimental to the league and the game."

Really? Is this the best the NHL can come up with? Fining a player for making (as far as we know) accurate comments about a referee who has been making quite his fair share of atrocious calls this season?

If you haven't yet heard the story, Vancouver Canucks forward Alex Burrows has been fined by the NHL for claiming that referee Stephane Auger had it out for him in Vancouver's game against Nashville on Monday.

Burrows stated that before the game Auger came up to him and told him that he was going to get back at him for apparently making him look bad earlier in the year.

In the third period of that game Auger nailed Burrows for two of the most ticky-tack penalty calls seen all year in the NHL.

Burrows was first called for diving early on in the third period, although the only infraction the Predators player could have committed would have been hooking. Now last time I checked, most players don't fall to the ice when being hooked under the arm along the boards.

Later in the third Burrows was called for face-off interference on a play where he was skating towards the face-off dot to try and help recover the puck. Clearly Burrows had no intentions of interfering with the opponent, as he took his own lane to where he thought the puck was going to end up. The Nashville player that fell was the one who should have been called for diving, as he incidentally clipped skates with Burrows and proceeded to flop down to the ice.

Neither penalty should have been called, and the egregiousness of each call is something the NHL ought to look into, especially considering what the NBA has gone through in recent years with their referees.

Just like basketball, a terrible call by a referee can decide a game in the NHL, and if a player speaks up and says a ref had it out for him, the league should investigate the truth behind the matter.

Instead, Colin Campbell, the much maligned head of NHL's disciplinary executives, stated that Burrows' comments about referee Auger having it out for him "can't be substantiated," and he "firmly believes" that "nothing inappropriate was said."

The NHL is aware that there is video of the pregame conversation between Burrows and Auger but are assuming that Burrows is making this $#*% up?

Instead of making a thorough attempt to figure out why a referee was singling out a player before puck drop, they automatically assume the player is the one lying?

Furthermore, unless a referee is good friends with an individual player, there is hardly any reason for him to talk to any individual player before puck drop. If a ref were to do so, the more likely scenario would be for a ref to talk to one of the team captains to explain how he wants to keep the game under control. But seeking out a non-captain during the pregame skate? Doesn't that sound fishy to anyone else?

The evidence is clearly available for the NHL to investigate any wrong doings by referee Auger and all its referees in general. This year has been filled with more than its fair share of bad calls, and if there is a ref or refs that have wrongly targeted specific players for penalties, than NHL needs to get said refs out of the game.

What happens if a team loses out on the playoffs because of a referee's hatred towards an individual player? What if a team loses a Stanley Cup because of it? If there is any chance that the NHL is dealing with corrupt referees, it have to do its due diligence to figure out what is going on.

As it stands, the NHL is growing in popularity, but a set-back at this point in time would be an absolute back-breaker for a league that is trying to regain the presence it had in the 1990s.

Perhaps Burrows is the one making something up to try and get Auger out of the league, but the evidence suggests otherwise. Do any of us know what really happened? No, but fining Burrows and moving on is a cop-out by the NHL.

Just another gaff by Bettman and company.