Some things have happened in the hockey world lately that have done nothing but get me extremely upset. Since it's pouring rain here in California today I've decided it's the perfect time to get them off my chest.
Laser Pointers - By now everyone has heard of the laser pointer incident involving the Vancouver Canucks. I agree with Brent Sutter's assessment that there is no reason the security staff should not have found the person or persons responsible within the course of a 60 minute game. However, what is even more a mystery to me is why the Canucks were not threatened with a penalty if it did not stop. Let's think about it using logic that is not allowed under NHL rules: fans can cost their team a penalty for throwing objects onto the ice or for using artificial noisemakers such as whistles and horns, so why not for interfering with a player's ability to play his position? I'm no fan of Kipprusoff, but if the laser had caught his eyes long enough he could have suffered career-ending eye damage.
USA Hockey - I was visiting my Godparents in New Hampshire last week and got the chance to see what hockey was like up there. Their grandson plays Bantam hockey and we went to see his games on Sunday. I couldn't help but notice how awful the officiating was. It made adult-league refs look like pros. But the even bigger problem for me was that players were running the goaltender after every shot, prompting the natural response of a 13- or 14-year-old boy, with the end result being one player from each team going to the penalty box. Needless to say the rough stuff continued throughout the first game and into the second. It makes me wonder why the refs take one from each side. Kids at that age group understand selfish penalties, but if they take an opponent to the box with them they aren't going to understand that they are hurting their team. Both teams are still at even strength, so how have they done anything wrong?
The NHL has, in the past, told the referees to take only one person whenever possible to help discourage the behavior. When they actually do it, it seems to work. So why has USA Hockey not adopted this? Our goal is to teach these young players more than just how to play hockey, why are we not doing it?
Alex Burrows - Okay, love the player and what he brings to the table, but hate his recent actions and the way they were handled by the league. If an official says something to you before the game about "getting even" then you should report it to your coaches then and there and make sure that before the game even begins the NHL is watching closely. After the game, speaking to the media, is the wrong time to do it.
As for the NHL, they should have fined him $1,000 right away. Instead they sent the message that players can make the accusations and the league will wait to find out if it's true before making a judgment. Also, by fining Burrows the amount they did, the NHL has violated the Collective Bargaining Agreement. The CBA allows for a maximum fine of $1,000 for comments about officiating and the money is supposed to go to the Emergency Assistance Fund. Instead, Burrows was fined $2500 and that money is going to the NHL.
For those who think the league isn't being fair and is letting Stephane Auger off the hook, think again. The bottom line is that all they have is the word of Alexandre Burrows against the word of Auger regarding what was said prior to the game. There is no one who can confirm either side's argument from an unbiased perspective. Therefore, Auger gets away with nothing because there is no evidence of wrongdoing. Colin Campbell has been on NHL Live, NHL on the Fly, NHL Hour and Hockey Night in Canada repeating exactly that.
However, because there is suspicion regarding Auger's actions, do not expect to see him in very many playoff games. Playoffs are a reward for good work throughout the season. That means that Auger, whose season is now tarnished by controversy, should not expect to be rewarded with extra games (and money) from the league.