Burrows and Auger
I think Bob McKenzie is mostly right with his comment on the Alexandre Burrows vs. Stephane Auger incident:
If the allegations are true – and Burrows has far too much detail and at the very least a compelling case of circumstantial evidence (the video of the pre-game conversation, the diving penalty, the interference penalty and the misconduct penalty) – then the league has no choice but to discipline Auger. In the wake of the Tim Donaghy scandal, the NBA referee who was part of a game-fixing scandal, the NHL has no choice but to ultra-sensitive to allegations that one of its officials may have, wittingly or unwittingly, affected the outcome of a game to send a message to a player who showed up that referee in a previous game.
I think they have to fire Auger unless he can credibly deny the accusation (and in which case Burrows should face a suspension.) This is a dismissal offense. The credibility of league officiating (such as it is) falls apart with this sort of incident. It is one thing to excuse mistakes – even incompetence – but to suggest that an official deliberately delivered up anything less than an honest effort to be impartial is simply unacceptable.
But Burrows needs to understand that if he’s going to do something – embellish a hit and/or fake injury to draw a major penalty – that ultimately embarrasses the ref, there’s going to be payback at some point. That’s hockey. And while the Canucks can be outraged, and rightfully so at how last night’s game went down, it wouldn’t be a bad idea for someone from management or another veteran player on the team to take Burrows aside and explain that refs are only human and if you rub their nose in it, you’re going to get it back.
I hate the diving and I don’t blame Auger for being pissed about the Nashville incident. Burrows should pay a price for his actions. The natural – and just – consequence should be that Burrows (and every other player who frequently dives) loses the benefit of the doubt when it appears as if he was tripped or hooked or held. If the referee can’t be sure Burrows was fouled, he can assume a dive and let the call go. That’s reasonable. (And Burrows would probably stop diving once it became obvious it was a counterproductive tactic, one that was costing him more calls than it gained.)
But Auger can’t do what he did. He can’t punish Burrows with phantom calls. He can’t call him for unsportsmanlike conduct when Burrows falls down and he can’t call interference for a jostle on a faceoff when Burrows had position. Auger can get even by looking at fouls committed against Burrows with a jaundiced eye, but he can’t get even by inventing penalties. The former is a sensible response to diving, the latter creates an integrity issue that should cost him his job.
Update: Darren Dreger taps league sources to tell us almost nothing about the disciplinary hearing for Burrows. We do learn that “some inside the NHL’s head offices, at times, have seen a dark side, and a player whose on-ice motives haven’t always been pure.” What on earth is this supposed to mean?