January 12, 2010
Alex Burrows(notes) deserved every penny of the $2,500 fine the NHL handed him on Tuesday evening for his scandalous public flogging of referee Stephane Auger, whom he claimed threatened him with retribution before the Vancouver Canucks' game on Monday night and then followed through with 16 penalty minutes.
It's one thing for an NHL player to complain about the officiating; it's another to accuse an official of a premeditated vendetta against a certain player or team, as Burrows did in his now-legendary rant.
That speaks to the integrity of the game fans are playing very good money to watch every night. If he's right about Auger, if he's wrong about Auger, it doesn't matter: It's presents an instant image problem for the League that goes beyond bad calls and missed whistles. It needed to be handled away from postgame anger and open mics.
The Vancouver Province reports that the NHL talked to both Burrows and Auger "at different times Tuesday," and that the $2,500 is "the maximum allowable fine and a player cannot be suspended for criticizing officials." While technically true, there were roughly 10,000 ways for Gary Bettman to issue additional penalties for this kind of infraction. But it'll just be a small monetary hit, and no suspension.
For those of you waiting for another shoe to drop on this matter with regard to Auger, know this: The NHL tells us tonight that the matter is closed.
As in, we emailed someone in the know from the League about additional punishment for Auger, and the response literally was "matter closed."
In theory, this could mean the NHL is moving on and leaving the matter to the NHL Officials Association. Or it could mean everyone's moving on from this episode, from the NHL to Auger to the Canucks for the betterment of the game.
What it probably means: The power-play disparity for the Canucks from now until the end of the season is going to be the most-watched team stat in hockey.