A For Vendetta

The regular news from tonight’s NHL action will read that Vancouver lost a tough game against Nashville at home 3-2.  The real story came out after the game when Canucks irritable forward Alex Burrows dropped a tactical nuke-sized bomb saying that referee Stephane Auger approached him during warmups saying… Botchford from The Province has all the pertinent information.

“It started in warm-up,” Burrows said. “Before the anthem, the ref came over and said I made him look bad in Nashville on the Smithson hit and he was going to get me back tonight.  When Smithson hit me sideways he said ‘I saw the replay you had your head up and weren’t really hurt and you made me look bad and I’m going to get you tonight.”

The game Burrows is referring to is a game from December 8th, also against the Predators, where Jarred Smithson received a five-minute major for charging and a game misconduct in a game Nashville also won 4-2.  In last night’s game, Burrows was dinged for three penalties in the third period, two of which most folks are describing as “dubious” including a diving call that was not matched up with the usual accompanying penalty on the other team.  Suffice to say, there’s some red flags here.

The fun part of tonight’s affair is that the Sportsnet cameras caught what might be part of the smoking gun on video.  Have a look.

Obviously it’s impossible to tell much of what’s being discussed here even if you can read lips, it’s just six seconds of video.  The fun part of this incredible accusation by Burrows is that it’s gotten folks all across Twitter to dig into Stephane Auger’s past to see if there are any other heated discrepancies and… You could say there’s a few and you don’t even need to check out games outside of this season to find some, two of which were games that were discussed right freaking here.

The first example is a game where his officiating partner Dennis LaRue took the heat for wrongly disallowing a Brad May goal against the Dallas Stars, a dubious decision considering it ended up costing Detroit the game.  The other game occurred when Philly’s Daniel Carcillo cold-cocked Matt Bradley and Auger awarded Washington an unprecedented nine minute power play against the Flyers.

If you want to dig even deeper, both the guys at Kurtenblog and Twitter fan MsConduct did some instant Internet research to find other complaints against Auger in the past, including one instance where Coyotes forward Shane Doan lost his cool and Auger accused him of using an ethnic slur against him.

With all of this stuff popping up all over the place, another bizarre call by Auger on Burrows shows that the dislike for each other may go back even further still.  Take a look at this video from last season.

Burrows was given a five-minute major for cross checking and a game misconduct for what amounted to basically nothing aside from Patrice Brisebois overselling a sort of hard hit.  If I were Alex Burrows, I know I’d question an official’s ability if he’s handing out major penalties like that like they were candy.

Alex Burrows’ vision of what referee Stephane Auger actually is.

Let’s get to the heart of the matter here though:

Alex Burrows has made a very damning accusation, one that is tantamount to accusing the official of fixing the game.  Burrows is no angel, he plays a game on the edge of being legal and illegal.  He’s got a history of questionable hits and plays and he’s most certainly got a reputation amongst the players and the officials.

Stephane Auger, as is being unearthed even more as I write this, has a history of questionable calls and now has a very serious allegation being made against him, one where he’s even caught on video speaking with Burrows before the start of the game.  This is a situation where the league has to do every bit of due diligence imaginable because the credibility of the game is being questioned. One thing that Gary Bettman cannot do is follow the example of his big brother in the NBA, David Stern.

In April 2007 when San Antonio Spurs superstar forward Tim Duncan called out referee Joey Crawford, Stern, ever the mediator, suspended Crawford for the remainder of the regular season and playoffs while fining Duncan $25,000 for slamming an official.  Duncan received two quick technical fouls, one while he was on the bench laughing with teammates, and was ejected from a game that ended up costing San Antonio the second seed in the playoffs.  Crawford was reinstated the following season and he promptly managed to make a no-call in a game between the Lakers and Spurs that cost the Spurs Game 4 of their series, an error so egregious the NBA apologized for it.  Some consolation.

Gary Bettman and NHL head of officiating Terry Gregson cannot screw the pooch on this matter.  If it turns out to be absolutely true that Stephane Auger said this to Burrows before the game he absolutely must be fired from the league.  To have a referee go rogue like this and take it into his own hands to decide how he’s going to call a game and be purposefully slanted against one player on the ice puts that player’s team at an instant disadvantage and makes the game immediately unfair and destroys the competitive balance.  If an official wants to take the game into his own hands in such a way, that’s an official that no longer needs to be affecting outcomes of games with their biased judgments.

If it turns out that Burrows was butt-hurt for blundering through the third period and Auger just happens to be a very mediocre official and Burrows opted to throw him under the bus because he flat out hates the way he calls a game then Alex Burrows better have a second career option waiting for him because if he thinks the calls are working against him now he hasn’t seen anything yet.  Is there a referee in the world that would give Alex Burrows the benefit of the doubt for anything after leveling a complaint like that and it turned out to be false?  No friggin’ way.



But if Burrows is telling the truth… The NHL spin doctors better be prepared for the enormous public relations nightmare that awaits them because every official is going to go under the microscope.  If you thought the rules crackdown after the lockout was rough on teams, the rules reinforcement that will go down through the fallout of this situation is going to be eerily similar.  After all, there can be no appearance of favorites and there can be no complaints anymore.

Stop The Insanity – Get Rid Of This Rule

Insane.  Just watch.

I thought about this rule a lot yesterday given the wacko spin-job the NHL tried to put on the whole mess with Brad May’s “no goal” against the Dallas Stars. The sport being what it is decided to one-up itself in a game between two severely struggling teams in Carolina and Toronto. This situation happens in overtime and bones Toronto out of an overtime victory, one which they couldn’t secure in the shootout because, you know, somehow winning a game in overtime and in the shootout is viewed as the same fucking thing.


The conclusion I’ve come to on this bogus “intent to blow the whistle” nonsense is that it’s a crutch. It’s a crutch for the officials because God forbid they make a definitive call in a game or do their job effectively. This has to end. Play to the whistle or don’t play at all. Simple as that. I know why the “intent to blow” clause is in the rule books, I understand it perfectly.

No more though. Referees are going to drag their asses in games and pretend that they’re bigger than the game itself? Too bad, your time has ended. The fact that more fans are getting to know the names of officials for all the wrong reasons isn’t a good way to seek out fame. People know Kerry Fraser because of his stupid hair but they also know him because he botched a call in the 1993 Western Conference Finals. People know Don Koharski because then Devils coach Jim Schoenfeld called him a fat pig and asked him to have another donut. They don’t know Don Koharski because he’s a swell guy or a good official, that’s crazy. People know Bill McCreary because he’s got a porn star mustache and can’t help but be the center of attention in any game he works.

Stop the insanity already. I want a couple of things out of officials. I want consistency and I want accountability for their actions when they decide they’re better than everyone else.  Consistency is already an impossible thing to get out of any game so I’m shit out of luck there, at the very least I should be able to get officials that don’t think they’re bigger or better than the game itself.  It looks like we’re all screwed there too.

GaryMcMahonHe intends to blow each and every night.  Mission accomplished.

The NHL has to get rid of this bogus ghost rule because any time it comes into play it’s a cop out of the highest order.  “Well, I wanted to stop play, but I was too damn slow to do it.”  What a joke.  Two nights in a row now games have been botched because of this referee crutch.

Get rid of it.

(Much thanks to Jeffler on Twitter for being lightning fast in pointing the video out on YouTube)

Incompetence Does Come From The Top

After the mess that ensued in the wake of referee Dennis LaRue’s brutal incompetence last night in Detroit, the NHL had to step up and explain themselves especially since Toronto phoned the officials to find out why, exactly, Brad May wasn’t being awarded a goal.  The man under Commissioner Gary Bettman’s roof asked to take the media hit for this is NHL Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations Mike Murphy who had an explanation released today on the NHLs website.

Let’s break this one down, shall we?

“In this particular case what happened is we (in the League’s video replay room in Toronto) see the puck in the net and call the video goal judge and say, ‘Blow the horn and get the referee over here. We see a puck in the net that hasn’t been ruled a goal,’ ” Murphy said. “At that point the referee comes over and we have a discussion. They came to us and said, ‘My intent to blow the whistle was there, I have this play dead before the puck crosses the goal line,’ No more needs to be said. Once we hear that, video review is out of the process. It’s a call made on the ice and it’s a non-reviewable call. It’s a whistle blown by the referee and it was blown or the intent to blow it was before the puck crossed the goal line.”

Now, if you missed out on the play, just check the previous post here for the YouTube video or just go straight to YouTube to see it yourself.  I say this because checking out the video is key here because the official says he intended to blow the play dead before the puck is even in the net.

Really, is that what we’re looking to do there Dennis?  Because if that’s what you’re doing there you’re an even bigger idiot because then play is still going on since… That’s exactly what was going on before the puck went in the net.  This isn’t a situation where the puck was trapped under Alex Auld’s pads and it’s a goal-mouth scramble to try and stuff in a rebound.  If it was like that, his excuse would be marginally acceptable.

But that wasn’t the case at all.  Moving on…

“The way we have always handled it is the referees call on the ice stands. He sees the shot and he sees the save and doesn’t see the puck in the net and he blows the whistle,” Murphy said. “It’s not when he blows the whistle, it’s when he intends to blow the whistle. In this case Dennis was clear with what he saw and what he interpreted and that is, ‘I had killed the play before the puck went into the net.’ I think we would all concede the puck was in the net, but Dennis didn’t see that unfortunately.”

And boom, just like that the NHL pulls the rug out from under Dennis LaRue.  You could say that they’re taking Dennis out fishing in the morning the same way Michael Corleone did with his brother Fredo.  Or if analogies and metaphors are your thing, the league has thrown him under the bus.  Considering what I said last night about how I figured this situation would go down, this is a stunning turn of events on its own.  I sincerely doubt LaRue gets treatment any harsher than this from the league or head of officiating Terry Gregson.  Why?  Well…

“In all cases we want to get the right call. In this case it is clear we didn’t,” Murphy said. “In some cases when you have video review people expect perfection and that’s never the case. There are times when we don’t want video review to intercede. We don’t want video review refereeing a game.”

Whoa, hang on… Time out here.  This entire statement is full of gigantic magnanimous flaws.  First of all, instant replay was instituted to get things to be as close to perfect as possible and asking players and fans alike for perfection out of the system, I think, isn’t asking a lot.  All you have to do is look to see if puck crossed line.  That’s a simple thing to do given this particular set of circumstances, yet the NHL leaves the door open for the human element of the matter to screw things up with terrible reasoning.

shortbusGet under the bus Dennis.

Isn’t the purpose of having a war room in Toronto watching everything to make sure everything is called correctly?  After all, if they don’t want video review to referee the games why does the league do video review of the referees work to make sure they aren’t completely terrible at their jobs?  Again, the league makes it look like they’re saying a lot when they’re really just saying, “Yeah, we fucked up and there’s nothing that can be done about it other than throwing one of our guys under the bus.”

Incompetence – The NHL has it.

Making A Mockery of the Game

While the headlines will read about the Dallas Stars defeating the Detroit Red Wings 3-1 in what would seem like a harmless game, what you’ll miss out on if you casually stroll by the box score is what happened that should’ve made it a 2-2 game halfway through the third.  What you’ll miss out on is a gross misuse of the rule book by NHL officials Dennis LaRue and Stephane Auger.  What you’ll miss out on is this.

Now, I’m not going to come out here and whine and pee my pants over a very obviously blown ruling.  What I’m going to do is call out these officials for being complete cowards.

The final ruling on this play was that “the whistle had blown” and there was no goal because of that.  Funny thing about that ruling is that the whistle did blow… About three seconds after the puck was in the net.  Now there’s a fuzzy thing in the NHL rulebook about having the “intent to blow the whistle” and that’s put in use when something happens in the gray area time inbetween the play and what should be a dead play.

The problem there being that the official states that the whistle had blown to kill the play.  Well sure, the play is good and dead when you’ve scored a goal.  Now give the NHL boys in Toronto’s replay war room credit, they called the Joe almost immediately to tell them that they screwed up and they’d better get it right.  Instead, LaRue and Auger decided to do a very Major League Baseball-like thing and say, “Nope, I’m right because I say I’m right and there ain’t no stupid television camera that’s going to tell me different.”

Instead, these two make a bad situation worse because they’re first wrong about the goal and then they’re wrong about their reason for it not being a goal.  Just perfect.  Do I expect any kind of punishment from the NHL to the officials for bludgeoning a call? Of course not.  If anything, Herr Bettman has shown nothing but blind support to his vision-impaired men in black and white and I expect there to be nothing different this time.

pied-piper_420Gary Bettman looks totally awesome in tights.

I’d call it a case of the blind leading the blind, but it comes off more like the Pied Piper of Hamelin leading the rats out of town.   The only difference here being that Piper Bettman is putting the rats on a Rose Bowl-kind of float to show how much he loves them while he leads all the fans out of town.  After all the God-awful officiating we’ve seen in Major League Baseball’s playoffs to the horrific nightly car crash that the NBA calls the situation with its referees (who are probably the most crooked of them all) to even World Cup soccer qualifying it makes sense that even the NHL can’t get their act together.  All I ask is that they try to give a damn and not let some self-important bloated opinion of themselves get in the way of getting the game right.

I know that’s asking a lot but hey at least Bill McCreary setting the example for other officials how to hog the spotlight is going away after this year, we can only hope it hasn’t caught on too much.  Wait, Kerry Fraser is going away too, right?  Maybe things will get better.

I’m not holding my breath.  After all, Kelly Sutherland is a long way off from retiring.

The Cost of Words

Colin Campbell’s Wheel of Justice was called in to weigh the cost of words against NHL Officials in regard to Joel Quenneville’s loony outburst after Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals.

The Wheel spit out a $10,000 fine for these words:

“I think we witnessed probably the worst call in the history of sports there,” Quenneville said after the game. “Nothing play. “They scored, it’s 3-0. They ruined a good hockey game and absolutely destroyed what was going on the ice. … Never seen anything like it.”


Let’s go back down the notable checklist of punishments from the Wheel of Justice.

It all makes complete sense.

Stupid NHL.

Back To School: SLU 2 – RPI 0

Second verse, same as the first for RPI this weekend in dealing with St. Lawrence. With RPI playing mostly 50 minutes of lifeless hockey and coming alive for the final ten against Clarkson, it was a bit surprising to see a similar situation crop up the next night.

It’s also surprising given that this was senior night for RPI. On this night, Arnold Schwarzenegger shed a tear because somewhere else in America, the Austrian national anthem was played, this time in honor the evening’s senior starting goaltender, Mathias Lange.

It’s like hockey gone emo but the sweaters aren’t ugly.

RPI started off well for the first few minutes but after a St. Lawrence power play goal in the first period from Shawn Fensel, the Engineers were frozen in time for the better part of the game through the rest of the first, all of the second and the first half of the third period.

In that time, TSN Hockey God Bob McKenzie‘s son Mike scored another power play goal for the Saints in the second period to put the lead out of reach for the night. Oddly enough, this was one of those games where there wasn’t a lack of shots, there were plenty of those (SLU 31, RPI 29) and St. Lawrence certainly had more than a few great opportunities to score. For the home-standing Engineers, however, it wasn’t quite the same until late into the third period.

This ice carving of RPI mascot Puckman sums up their offense this year.

Right about at the ten minute mark of the third, RPI managed to swing momentum on their side simply by having their top line with senior captain Matt Angers-Goulet and sophomores Chase Polacek and Tyler Helfrich cycling well, doing dirty work and getting a few shots on goal. I mention this line by name because it was this same group the night before that woke them up and it carried through to the other lines from that point on.

The issue for RPI on this night would be that they both seemingly waited too late into the game to get it going and allowed some truly crummy officiating get in their way. During a shift featuring the Joel Malchuk line, Malchuk was mixed up with a SLU defender trying to free the puck up on the end boards. Another SLU defenseman skated in planting a check into the back of Malchuk putting him down on the ice leading to an eventual stop in play and players mixing it up a bit.

Malchuk was slow to get up but eventually did and headed to the bench. The problem here is that no call was made on the play. Checking from behind has been a pet issue of the NCAA and all of its conferences for a couple seasons now, allowing officials the discretion to hand out a five-minute major and a game misconduct to players found guilty of this.

Folks at the NCAA go as far as to chart the progress of these calls and revisit the issue to see if anything needs to be altered. At least they’re trying to make sure they’re doing some things correctly.

The NCAA has adopted some of their rulings from the NHL (for example: no line changes for teams offending on icing, face offs after penalties go to the offending team’s defensive end of the ice) however the NCAA’s stand on dangerous hits from behind is something they should be commended for. The NHL has been gutless when it comes to protecting their players and only this week started dealing out actual punishment for players delivering dirty hits (See: Brendan Witt and Derek Boogaard).

As for Joel Malchuk, while folks can argue one way or the other whether or not the hit was a minor or major infraction (hits like that have been called either way in games I’ve watched) the fact that officials Mike Baker and Joe Carusone called nothing on the play is embarrassing.

RPI head coach Seth Appert made sure to voice his displeasure with the officials about this (as well as a potential tripping call on the following shift). Appert was given a bench minor for his efforts.

At least they made one call in the final few minutes. I guess.

Malchuk may feel like the most snakebitten guy in the league given this no-call against St. Lawrence and the embellishment penalty he received in a road game against Union College this year where he was tripped and tossed to the ice by a Union defenseman on a short-handed break.

Black clouds find a way to follow some people around. Malchuk has also missed parts of this season and most of last season due to a myriad of injuries.

As for referee Mike Baker, he heard it loudly and by name from the RPI students. I can’t say I recall a game where the referee has been chanted at by name and told how poorly he’s doing his job, but this is what makes the RPI fans a fascinating set of creatures with memories as sharp as an elephant.

Flashing back to last season, Mike Baker was one of the two referees on the ice for a home game against, oddly enough, Union College. The NCAA didn’t go full-on with the two referee system until this season, but this tilt between travel partners was chosen to be a test run to see how well it would work. If you ask Union fans, it worked out great as the Dutchmen pounded RPI. If you ask RPI fans, they’ll start muttering about Mike Baker’s work in that game, one part in particular from the first period:

REN-5 Dan Peace (5-Fighting) UNI 1×5 17:56

REN-6 Dan Peace (10-Game Disqualification) (Served by Scott Halpern) 17:56

The problem they have with these penalties is that no Union player was also tagged for fighting, no one dropped their gloves, and it occurred in a harmless post-whistle scrum near the goal.

Could Mike Baker just been interpreting the NCAA Rule Book literally? Sure, absolutely he could have – to quote Section 17a.:

A player shall not fight an opponent or participate in a fight, on or off the playing surface. A punch thrown may be considered fighting.

OK, I can see how a post-whistle scrum could be interpreted that way and be taken very literal by someone hellbent on impressing the boss. Oh, by the way, the boss of officials in the ECAC is former NHL referee Paul Stewart. Stewart knows how things go so cross that one off the list.

That said, if you’re going to be a stickler for that rule… why not be a stickler for all of them? I digress. Officiating isn’t the reason RPI lost the game, St. Lawrence is playing very good hockey right now and it may have been RPI that woke them up by beating them 7-6 in overtime in January.

St. Lawrence has been on fire since that game, only dropping one contest to travel partner Clarkson since that game with RPI on January 23rd. Come March 20-21st when we’ll be visiting the Times Union Center in Albany for the ECAC Semis and Finals I would be surprised if St. Lawrence was not there competing for the automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.

The post game brought about one of my favorite things: The ceremony to thank the seniors and pay homage to them for their hard work and dedication to the program. For RPI, this meant a parting farewell for Mathias Lange, Kurt Colling, Seth Klerer, Andrei Uryadov and captain Matt Angers-Goulet.

Losing on Senior Night is a huge bummer.

It also doubles as a function as a reminder to those who are moving up a class next season that their roles are more important and that their leadership will be demanded of them and for a few players, a big step up in their game and a whole boatload of new responsibilities.

Part of the future of RPI Engineers hockey.

RPI and St. Lawrence now move on to the Conference Playoffs. RPI finished the season with the #11 spot in the ECAC and will visit Dartmouth College in their playoff series next weekend while St. Lawrence’s win over RPI gives them a first round bye and the #4 seed in the ECAC.

The other first round pairings are:

Clarkson @ Union
Brown @ Harvard
Colgate @ Quinnipiac

Yale, Cornell and Princeton also have first round byes with St. Lawrence and those four will wait to see who is left standing after this weekend.

I’m Not A Psychic, I Just Know the NHL Better Than You Do

Incredibly I’m going to toot my own horn here as I predicted that the NHL and the officials would again find a way to continue letting old, bad habits creep on in with ignorant officiating. Little did I know, however, that just straight up BAD officiating would show up alongside it.

In case you missed it, during the third period of Game Two of the Campbell Conference Western Conference Finals, it was made abundantly clear that both running the goaltender (as Teemu Selanne had done just before this “goal”) as well as shoving the goalie into the net while he’s got the puck covered (Windows Media Player needed) leading to the tying goal are now OK by the “New NHL” standards. At least according to Rob Schick and Kevin Pollock. No, not Kevin Pollak – although I don’t imagine he’d have done any worse of a job.

Sure, the officials tried to do the honorable thing and have the play sent up for review, but don’t be fooled – this was a mere red herring to keep the peace with the comatose fans at Joe Louis Arena. As I’d spotted on a hockey forum here on Ye Olde Interweb, here’s the way things go down:

According to the CBC announcers, the replay booth could only review whether or not the puck went into the net (it did). They could not review whether or not Niedermayer shoved Hasek into the net (he did).Rule 69.6 (from the 2006-07 NHL Rulebook):”In the event that a goalkeeper has been pushed into the net together with the puck after making a stop, the goal will be disallowed. If applicable, appropriate penalties will be assessed.”

So, thanks to your lovely neighborhood officiating crew, what you got rather than the correct ruling was a nice dog and pony show. I hope you all had your bets placed on the Whippet and Shetland Pony.

That nonsense aside, the continued allowance of all things interference continues to baffle me. Just about every faceoff in last night’s game resembled not so much the dropping of the puck, but a rugby scrum instead with guys all pretending like they were Rob Brind’Amour, sans horseface. I know that trying to get an edge on the faceoff is gamesmanship and all part of the action – however, I have to think that tying each other up on the faceoff is still a penalty. Make the call morons, you had no problem doing just that during the 82 games that weren’t quite so important and noticeable.

Game 3 with Buffalo in Ottawa tonight – this should make for a good gut-check for the Sabres because if they allow Ottawa to get rolling tonight in front of that rabid, raucous Canadian crowd this series could be in for an abrupt and rather shocking early finish. If we’ve learned anything from the Sabres, however, it’s to never count them out.

One amusing announcers note: As the Wings-Ducks game jumped into overtime, the Versus crew made sure to highlight all the players who have scored game-winners in OT in the playoffs and made it a particular point to say, “Even Brad May has an overtime game-winner!”

For those of you who may have forgotten about Brad May’s one moment in time, and if you’re a Bruins fan you still curse him to this day, here – have a look for yourself. The call is courtesy of Sabres legendary play-by-play man Rick Jeanerette.