Referee Stephane Auger calls a high sticking penalty during a game between the Buffalo Sabres and Ottawa Senators. (Photo by Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images)
We have already heard from Alex Burrows. Boy, have we ever heard from him.
Now it’s time for Stephane Auger to speak up and the sooner the better. Aside from deeming it a treasonous act for players and coaches to criticize on-ice officials, the NHL has always protected its referees and linesmen with a cone of silence.
And it’s time for that to be lifted for the sake of the integrity of the game. That’s because hockey fans everywhere want to hear directly from Auger what was said between him and Burrows prior to the Vancouver Canucks 3-2 loss to the Nashville Predators Monday night.
By now we all know Burrows claimed after the game Auger told him prior to the game he intended to get even for an alleged dive Burrows took earlier in the season, one where a major penalty and game misconduct to Jerred Smithson of the Predators called by Auger was rescinded by the league’s head office. Burrows claims Auger told him the incident put the official in a bad light and that Burrows would pay for his indiscretion that night.
We also know Burrows received two penalty calls late in the game that were questionable to say the least, egregiously bad to say the worst. We now know the NHL has fined Burrows $2,500 for his comments and that Auger will not be further disciplined, which on the surface looks as though the league is backing the referee on this one.
What we need to know now is what Auger claims to have said to Burrows before the game. We need to hear Auger say Burrows is lying, or at least is spinning his own version of the truth.
And the latter is entirely possible to fathom. Think about it. How many times has a conversation occurred between two people and when the contents of it are relayed afterward, there are two almost diametrically opposed versions of it? My guess is it happens in all walks of life hundreds of times a day between wives and husbands, bosses and employees, customers and providers.
There is irrefutable proof Auger and Burrows had words before the game and that, in and of itself, is enough to be damning evidence against Auger. But what exactly was the content of those words? Is it possible Auger told Burrows he didn’t appreciate Burrows embellishing the call against Smithson, and in the heat of the moment after a tough loss, Burrows recalls thinking Auger also said he would put the screws to him later that night? Is it possible Auger said one thing and Burrows heard, or thought he heard, something else while he was skating away?
One thing here is also certain. If it’s true that Auger said to Burrows he was going to “get (him) back tonight,” Burrows should have gone to both coach Alain Vigneault and co-referee Dennis LaRue with his claims instead of waiting until after the game to vent in public.
Burrows may very well be convinced Auger did say to him exactly what Burrows claims he said. Since both parties involved speak both of Canada’s official languages, it’s impossible something got lost in the translation, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t a miscommunication somewhere along the line.
But nobody comes out looking very good in this one and that’s why it’s imperative Auger comes out and sets the record straight.
Ken Campbell, author of the book Habs Heroes, is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog will appear Wednesdays and Fridays and his column, Campbell's Cuts, appears Mondays.
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