Alex The Great opens a can of worms with all the subtlety of a shotgun.
Don’t worry, I’m going to get to it.
So Calgary was in town on Saturday and I watched probably the best regular season NHL game I’ve seen in a few years. Sydney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, the two best players in the league both recorded hat tricks in the same game not too long ago, and I was still more impressed with the Flames/Canucks on HNIC. This game had the intensity and physicality you would normally only see in the post-season. It was shades of 2004 Western Quarterfinals all over and despite these two teams having played 3 times already this season, it was a whole different feel and resentment that showed up. The Canucks, though outshot, weren’t really out-chanced and played a very solid, up-tempo game. Three regular defenseman were out of action and it was obvious that they missed Sami Salo more than they thought. Brad Lukowich and Evan Oberg were limited in minutes and looked shaky, Oberg especially, and it was essentially a game played with the top 3 of Mitchell, Edler and Ehrhoff, who all played great. Some great fights by Rick Rypien and Brandon Prust contributed to a really solid, fun game to watch. Obviously the 3-2 shootout loss on the Vancouver side left some with a tear, but anybody who watched that game live, on TV or even watched the highlights should be pleased with what they saw. That was the type of game that attracts people to the NHL and makes new fans.
Unfortunately, two nights later after showing how great hockey can be, some fans are going to leave after seeing the ugly side of sport rear its head in probably the worst way it can. I try to give comments in sort of two game segments so it doesn’t reflect a high for one game and a low for the next, I feel the context of how a team is playing is usually more accurate in segments. So I had hoped to comment on the Flames and Nashville games together with an eye on some key players and I had some topics especially for the Flames that will just have to wait until next time. The Burrows vs. Auger showdown is going to be ugly and I imagine it will have repercussions extending maybe for years and you don’t ever want to have to write about officiating but how can we not here. Every blogging website I have checked is showing at least 2 blogs in relation to the topic. Media sites are focusing their attention there (TSN has 3 blogs related) and the radio waves are abuzz with the same. It’s a situation that seems to have to get worse before it gets better and there might be no turning back.
If you missed what happened, you live in a box so I won’t repeat the incident for you. If you know what’s going on you have your own opinion on who’s right and who’s wrong and what the next step is. I don’t know what the correct answer is but I can tell you it’s bringing a dark cloud like no other.
To me the officiating is something to remain invisible and so I’m irritated that it’s being exposed right now. When Mick McGeough officiated his 1000 game (in Calgary), there was a pre-game ceremony for him and the fans booed him while he stood next to his family. I was upset with the fans for booing him but it bothered me that there was a ceremony in the first place. Don’t think for a moment that I’m not impressed by his 1023 games in the NHL, because it is quite the feat, but I always feel they should be behind the scenes and not overshadowing the game in anyway and in that situation I felt it could have been done in a different manner, whether it be a TV spotlight, NHL network could show his first game, whatever method worked.
More to the point, prior to Tim Donaghy, how many people knew the name of even one NBA official? If you watch basketball all the time you might, but even when they make bad calls, it’s two seconds of being upset followed by ‘fuhgeddaboudit.’ The NBA had to sweep that guy under the rug in every way possible and he is a black eye on that league to this day and will be for a long time. Stephane Auger isn’t Tim Donaghy, the situation is very different but Auger had this coming to him and it’s going to be tough for the NHL to let it go. Auger supposedly caught Phoenix Captain Shane Doan making a racial slur a few years back too and that was messy for the league on a political level with even the Quebec government denouncing Doan. We probably won’t be able to determine with any accuracy if Burrows is telling the truth unless he happened to be wired, and if he was waiting until 3 seconds left in that game before mouthing off the ref, I’m guessing he wasn’t. So now we await the leagues response which for good reason will take at least a day or two. The Canucks and their fans have every right to be upset, but same goes for the league and the officials who all get singled out for this. It’s a slippery slope when you accuse an official, because they remember everything and you can attempt to be as impartial as you want but its human nature to become defensive if you’re accused of something.
As I said, I try to avoid writing about officiating and if you’ll notice I’m not denouncing Auger or saying the calls were bad. Just keep in mind that officials have the responsibility to be impartial and have to do their very best to live up to that. In this case it seems as though Stephane Auger forgot that golden rule and might have to pay a price. Conversely, the Canucks aren’t going to be benefitting from any favorable calls from any official in the near future and maybe for a while. It’s time to see how much the Vancouver fans actually love Alex Burrows.
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Written by Luke Mirza