January 12 2010 09:57AM
Burrows and Auger "discuss things" before Monday's game. (image from Rogers Sportsnet)
The NHL appears to have a mess on its hands. Alex Burrows laid out some very serious allegations last night following his Canucks' loss to the Nashville Predators. Burrows has alleged that referee Stephane Auger had a vendetta against him, and that Auger told Burrows before the start of the game that Auger would be out to get him during the game.
Per ESPN, Burrows said, "It was personal," Burrows said. "It started in warm-up before the anthem. The ref came over to me and said I made him look bad in Nashville on the Smithson hit. He said he was going to get me back tonight and he did his job in the third."
The Kurtenblog has done an excellent job compiling some recent evidence that shows Burrows has a point.
1. Stephane Auger has a track record of questionable decision-making.
2. Burrows and Auger go way back, back before the Smithson hit.
3. Auger and LaRue were also responsible for this beauty in Detroit earlier this season.
Where does this all stem from? Burrows embellished a hit from the Predators' Jerred Smithson earlier in the year. On the hit, Smithson received a five-minute major penalty and a game misconduct. Evidence though shows that Burrows embellished the play, causing Auger to give Smithson a stiff penalty. Burrows claims now that the dubious officiating in last night's game was revenge for making Auger look bad on that call.
Also, Jason Botchford states (via Twitter) "Auger gave Burrows game misconduct in February when shaft of his stick slid up and hit Brisebois. Questionable whether it was even a penalty". "Here is the play in February in which Auger gave Burrows a game misconduct > http://tiny.cc/2wlHA (45 seconds in for the replay)"
Furthermore, for the actual evidence, there is video of Burrows and Auger talking before the game, which substantiates Burrows' claim.
Given all of this information, it's clear that the NHL has a big problem on its hands. This allegation shows that a referee's personal feelings caused him to act in a biased manner and ultimately affected the outcome of a game. If this is true, this is the NHL's equivalent to the Tim Donaghy saga. The NHL must address this quickly and must investigate this thoroughly. It cannot have rogue officials taking vendettas into games, changing outcomes and affecting the standings. Canucks management, staff, media and fans will all be eager to hear from the NHL in the next 48-72 hours.
I hope for his sake that Alex Burrows did not lose something in the translation, or mishear Auger, or there was any confusion. If so, he will be a marked man with every ref every time he steps on the ice. On the other hand, Burrows has no history of speaking negatively about officials, he was very clear about what he says Auger said to him, and there is video evidence that Auger singled him out and spoke to him before the game.
I'll reserve my next judgment until the NHL has its say.