It's open season on Alex Burrows
Opponents can manhandle Canuck forward with no fear of a penalty
You saw it once again Tuesday night in Columbus. Seriously, you see it almost every game. We speak of Alex Burrows standing in front of the net trying to do what lots of other players in the league do all the time: screen the goalie and try for a deflection on any shot he might be able to get his stick on.
But with Burrows there's a difference, and every defenceman in the league seems to know it. You see, it's perfectly all right to cross-check him as hard as you like, perhaps punch him in the head or the face if you like, and there's virtually no chance the referee will give you a penalty.
Evidently, the rules go right out the window when it comes to this guy, for two reasons.
One is that he told the world that referee Stephane Auger had threatened before a game in December 2010 that he was going to get him for showing him up in a previous game - and then the referee did precisely what he said he would do - gave him a ridiculously undeserved penalty.
And secondly because there was that bevy of publicity during the 2011 Cup final that Burrows and a whole host of Canucks allegedly took dives all the time, and therefore any time Burrows hits the ice - no matter how hard he's hit - it's embedded in the minds of the officials that he is "probably diving."
It's like media hype has become reality. Ergo, open season on Burrows.
You keep thinking that this will end, and they'll let Burrows out of this penalty box he seems to be in. But no. It never ends. It goes on and on.
The league dismissed Auger at the end of last season, and now, for all anyone really knows, many of the officials seem to think of Burrows as the guy who got one of their fellow officials gonged.
In fact, Auger was removed for a series of gaffs, not the least of which was disallowing a goal in Detroit, saying the whistle had gone, when in fact Brad May had backhanded the puck right into the goal, the whistle clearly blowing two or three seconds after the fact. Yet despite all evidence to the contrary, he stuck with his original call. It was a blunder of stunning proportions, even for a league which refuses to admit it has an officiating problem.
But this isn't about Auger, it's about the integrity of the officials and the integrity of the game.
We all know that the referees and linesmen are human and they have their personal feelings. And many may feel what Burrows did was betray some sort of unwritten confidence rule whereby what's said on the ice stays on the ice. But these guys need to look in the mirror and ask themselves, are we doing the job the way it's supposed to be done?
A referee's job is to impartially call the very best game he can every night to the very best of his ability. He might be a better official if he remembers a certain player can sometimes have the temptation to embellish a hit and perhaps be aware of that tendency, but ego and personal feelings have no place in his role.
It doesn't matter what he thinks of a particular player or a particular coach or team. His job is adjudicate the rules of the game to the best of his ability. What happened in the past is not relevant. If a guy who strangled your mother gets tripped in a game you're working, it's your job to call a penalty. To do otherwise is a betrayal of your profession, your ethics and it subverts the integrity of the game. That's one of the things that makes the job so tough. There's no "me" involved, only the rules and the imperative the game be judged as fairly as possible.
Naturally, there are mistakes made which go in favour or against any given player or team on any given night. Heavens, we all saw how Henrik Sedin got lucky when the officials seemed to miss him jamming his stick into Sergei Bobrovsky's mask in the third period Tuesday night, so this isn't a homer rant - or at least wasn't meant to be.
But this open season on Burrows has got to stop. It does the game and the officials a shocking disservice.
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