OK, I admit it: Canucks left winger Alex Burrows probably should have been suspended for biting Patrice Bergeron during Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals. It was a clear violation of the rules, and the NHL most likely ignored it because they didn’t want to handicap the marketability of their championship by suspending a key player.
I’ll let Jeff Goldblum give my opinion of NHL v.p. Mike Murphy’s “no conclusive evidence” argument for letting the incident go without even a fine:
“No conclusive evidence?” Mr. Murphy, have you ever heard of YouTube? No? Here, I’ll show you:
Looks pretty darn conclusive to me. If you want to avoid suspending Burrows because you want to keep one of the most dynamic players left in the playoffs on the ice, fine. You obviously can’t use that as your explanation, but at least have the decency to make up something more credible than “no conclusive evidence.” Or, again, fine Burrows but don’t suspend him. That way you still look tough without directly influencing the outcome of the games.
The NHL made a mistake, plain and simple.
Having said all that, I’m getting pretty sick of hearing about Burrows and his teeth. It’s nothing more than sour grapes disguised as righteous anger. Had Burrows not scored two goals Saturday, including the game-winner, no one would care. But he won the game for the Canucks, and all of a sudden every action taken by a Canucks player is looked at through this incredibly petty lens. Right winger Maxim Lapierre wags his finger in Bergeron’s face. The Sedin brothers introduce Burrows as a “vegetarian.” For shame! They’re mocking the game!
Really? They’re “mocking the game?” What kind of high and mighty crap is that? Yes, they were making fun of the situation a little bit, because the image of grown men biting each other is, well, kinda funny.
News flash, everyone: there is no such thing as “integrity of the game.” Never has been, never will be. “Integrity of the game” is a lofty, purely imagined concept lashed onto a sport that never wanted it. These players are not role models. They want to win, they want to be famous, they want to get rich. Same as the rest of the us. Anything beyond that are league-mandated behaviors designed to sell an image. If players could become multi-millionaires without having to look like fine, upstanding citizens, they would.
I once read about a study of high school athletes that asked if they would use a performance-enhancing steroid if they were guaranteed to get away with it. The subjects overwhelmingly answered “yes,” and the numbers didn’t dip much with the added caveat that the steroid would kill them within 10 years of retirement.
The same logic works with fighting, tackling, or any other controversial sports topic. If an athlete can succeed without having to rise above his basest, most juvenile instincts, he will. Just like a regular person would.
Bruins fans are angry about the Stanley Cup finals so far, because in two games the Bruins have only hung with the Canucks when the Canucks have allowed them to. Vancouver plays very well most of the time, then kicks it into overdrive when they have to. So far, the Bruins haven’t matched that second gear, and no one is sure if they even can.
The lightning-quick way in which Vancouver won both Games 1 and 2 has left Bruins fans grasping for anything concrete to latch onto, and they’ve latched onto the biting incident.
You know who you all look like? Canadiens fans. Yeah, I said it. Deal with it.
A similar uproar happened in Montreal after Zdeno Chara’s March 8 hit on left winger Max Pacioretty sent Pacioretty off the ice on a stretcher. Fans wanted Chara suspended, expelled, even arrested for assault. As I pointed out at the time, Habs fans made no such clamoring when one of their own did the exact same thing 22 years ago. Chara hurt the Canadiens’ chance to win, so their fans wanted his head. Burrows hurt the Bruins’ chance to win, and Boston fans want Burrows’ head.
Bruins fans have slightly more justification for this, in that Burrows broke a rule and Chara just mistimed his hit. But this is splitting hairs. Burrows bite went unpunished, Bruins fans. Deal with it and move on. Grow up.
Of course, don’t let that stop you from booing the hell out of Burrows Monday night at the Garden.