Once Bitten. . .Updated
VANCOUVER--A suspension for biting in the Stanley Cup final? It hardly seems likely.
So while Alex Burrows of the Canucks certainly did appear to be snacking on the right index finger of Boston's Patrice Bergeron during a scrum at the end of the first period in Game 1 on Wednesday, NHL precedent suggests Burrows may get a talking to from NHL authorities today, but no more.
(Ed note: NHL announced at 2:40 EST that Burrows would not be suspended. "I can find no conclusive evidence that Alex Burrows intentionally bit the finger of Patrice Bergeron," said NHL senior vice-president Mike Murphy in a statement. Burrows wasn't available to comment, while Bergeron said: "It's the league's decision. . .he did it. . .but I guess I'm over it.)
That's not to say the NHL wouldn't possibly do anything. In January, 2009, Ottawa's Jarkko Ruutu was suspended two games for chomping down on one of Buffalo enforcer Andrew Peters' digits. Like Burrows, Ruutu used the he-stuck-his-fingers-in-my-mouth excuses, but the league wasn't buying it. As well, Burrows does have a bit of a history with league authorities for borderline incidents in the past.
But the Ruutu incident was in a regular season game and this is the Final. Given the things that other players have gotten away with in these playoffs - Andrew Ference's deliberate head shot on Montreal's Jeff Halpern jumps to mind - any kind of stiff action against Burrows would be a surprise.
Complicating the matter somewhat is the fact that ex-Leaf coach Mike Murphy, a key executive in the league's hockey operations, will preside over this case. Murphy was appointed to be in charge of supplementary discipline when, as has always been the case, Colin Campbell recused himself because the series involves his son, Gregory, who plays for Boston. Funny, by the way, how no one questioned that system in the six years Gregory was playing for Florida, but once he was moved to Boston it became a terrible conflict in the eyes of some.
In the hours before Game 1, it was announced that Campbell would be stepping aside entirely in that disciplinarian role next season, giving way to Brendan Shanahan, who will head the league's new Department of Player Safety and mete out suspensions.
Ever suspicious Vancouver fans might like that change to happen sooner. Don't forget, just last year Murphy was criticized in these parts for once being quoted as saying he would like to see the Los Angeles Kings win a Stanley Cup some day, mostly because he once played for the Kings and understood the ups and downs of that franchise over the years.
Those mild quotes were regurgitated by Vancouver conspiracy theorists last April when Murphy disallowed a goal from the Toronto war office by Daniel Sedin against the Kings in a playoff series. The fact Murphy also once worked for the Canucks didn't slow the runaway logic of these theorists.
If Murphy were to rule against Burrows, you can bet the same old stuff would be dredged up again.
Murphy is one of the most respected people in the league's office, but has been a target on other occasions. Oddly enough, it was a Los Angeles executive, GM Dean Lombardi, who took a run at Murphy earlier this year after Murphy allowed a winning goal scored by a Phoenix player against the Kings to stand.
While Canuck fans and some media had accused Murphy of being pro-L.A., Lombardi accused him of being bitter towards the Kings because he had been passed over for the GM job several years earlier.
For his sheer idiocy, Lombardi was fined $50,000 by the league. But Murphy's experiences surely tell you what lengths some will go to in order to claim the league doesn't want their team to win. In the Burrows case, if any action were to be taken against the Vancouver winger by Murphy, you can bet some in the Vancouver media would also raise the issue of Boston's Zdeno Chara not being suspended for his controversial hit on Max Pacioretty of Montreal earlier this season, a decision that Murphy made after consulting with no fewer than 25 other hockey people within and without league headquarters. The dim-witted took the non-suspension, of course, as evidence that Campbell was still calling the shots behind the scenes to favour his son's team, and even though he has now stepped aside, that wouldn't stop some from raising that allegation again.
It's the same nonsense Shanahan is going to have to deal with once he takes over.