Burrows’ Claims are a Big Problem for the NHL

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.

    • Ender

      It looks like the league has sided with Auger, at least publically. At this time, per Dregor at TSN, the league will not be handing any discipline to Auger. Behind the scenes, of course, I'm sure there will be a nice big black mark on his record for being stupid, but nothing public.

      Honestly, I don't think the league had any choice but to go this way. You let one player get away with beefing about the refs on camera and they'll all start doing it, especially if they know that the ref faces discipline as a result of their comments. The players can afford the fine; the refs would be the ones to really suffer. There is a way to police your referees but that process cannot involve the players they are supposed to be monitoring. That's letting the inmates run the asylum.

  • "I'll reserve my next judgment until the NHL has its say."–end of the article

    "Auger STILL felt compelled to exact revenge on him"–comment made by author

    "Auger says "You made me look bad on that call, so I'm gonna get you back." "–comment made by author

    Nice job waiting for the NHL's say Cam

    • I did reserve judgment.

      If Burrows is telling the truth, then the facts speak for themselves.
      Auger didn't ref a Canucks game for over a month. If Burrows is telling the truth, then Auger waited a month and still felt compelled to seek revenge on Burrows for his actions in the game in Nashville.

      As for the other comment, I'm simply paraphrasing what Burrows said to the media and has been plastered around Canadian sports sites for the last 36 hours.

      If Burrows is lying then this is all irrelevant.

      I urge you to read my new article today to see my reaction to the NHL's decision on this matter.

      If you still feel that I didn't reserve my judgment, please let me know how you think I am being biased here.

  • Ender

    While it may be very true that Auger targetted Burrows for 'revenge', there are two things that are still going to come back to haunt Burrows about this:

    1) The first penalty in question in last night's game was a legitimate penaty. Burrows dove. The league will have to give Auger the benefit of the doubt on that call; it's hard to watch that replay and come to any other conclusion. Burrows started to get up and then simply fell over for no reason. Likewise on the game misconduct; it's legitimate. No matter how angry you are with an official, justified or not, you cannot just go out there and start unloading on the guy. If everyone did that, chaos would ensue. The rules are quite clear on this; it was a textbook call.

    2) Despite the fact that the second penalty was a pretty lame call and arguably decided the game, Burrows had to know that going public with allegations like this violated every leage protocol on dealing with this situation. The Right Way: Talk to your coach, who talks to the GM, who sends a written protest to the league, who deals with the incident quietly so that we never hear about it. Maybe Auger is fired, maybe he doesn't ref the Canucks anymore, maybe no punishment is exacted. The Wrong Way: Tell everyone in Canada that Auger essentially fixed a pro sporting event, implying that if the league doesn't do something awful to him that they condone such activities in their league. How could Burrows possibly expect to avoid at the very least a large fine and at worst a suspension? It has to happen.

  • James C Edgington

    I think it's obvious that Auger singled Burrows out and the calls against Burrows were all very questionable.I also wonder if Burrows will face any disciplinary action for his comments after the game.

  • I adore Burrows for breaking the BS rule of not being able to call out officials. They are supposed to remain unbiased and objective to protect the integrity of the game. Not bring their personal issues on the ice with them, let the players do that.
    The NHL needs to respond to this quickly, and investigate Auger, I with Burrows on this one, he was FIRED UP last night after the game, and I've never seen him like that.

  • Burrows dove. Auger called Smithson for a five and game because of it. Then the NHL overturned the game misconduct and fine that would have been due to Smithson because the NHL concluded that Burrows dove.
    Auger says "You made me look bad on that call, so I'm gonna get you back."

  • What's crazier – Stephane Auger did not ref a single Canucks game between the first Nashville/Vancouver game (where the Burrows dive occured) and last night.
    That means that weeks went by, and Auger STILL felt compelled to exact revenge on him.

    That's ludicrous.

  • If it's true, it's crazy that this happened. However, if it isn't true, it might be even crazier — like some bizarre reality TV show episode taking place in the NHL.

    I'm eager to see what the league has to say about it…