This just in: NHL announces that biting another player is perfectly acceptable.
As I’m sure you were made aware (several times), in last night’s game, Alexandre Burrows bit Patrice Bergeron’s hand during a scrum behind the net at the end of the first period. While the play resulted in a roughing minor to Bergeron and double-minor in roughing to Burrows, nothing further was handed out when Bergeron showed the refs his bitten fingers (which, according to the NBC crew, had blood on it). According the official rules, Burrows should also have been given at least a two-minute minor for unsportsmanlike conduct: “Any player who is guilty of unsportsmanlike conduct including, but not limited to hair-pulling, biting, grabbing hold of a face mask, etc. If warranted, and specifically when injury results, the referee may apply Rule 21 – Match Penalties.” So, the refs missed that call.
And that’s fine. I’m sure it was hard to see during the chaos; in fact, the ref’s head was turned towards Bergeron when Burrows did the said biting. I’m sure none of us had any idea until we saw the video replay(s). And of course, Burrows, who has a history of questionable plays (look it up if you want) and even a suspension, was aware enough of what he was doing to grab Bergeron’s hand and hide it behind his own hand, obscuring the biting action from clear view.
And that was apparently enough to fool the NHL. According to NHL.com, National Hockey League Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations Mike Murphy reviewed the tape and claimed that there was no “conclusive evidence that Alex Burrows intentionally bit the finger of Patrice Bergeron.”
Right…Burrows grabbed Bergeron’s hand, put his mouth around his fingers (sorry, I’m not sure if it’s possible to describe in a way that’s not dirty), covered Bergeron’s hand with his own, bent his head down, and stopped yapping (which is something he LOVES to do) for a second, just so it LOOKED LIKE he was biting on Bergeron’s hand. Great prank, Burrows! And Bergeron really added to that sell by going over to the refs, claiming he was bitten and showing them his bloody fingers. Clearly they were in on it together!
Seriously. That’s the only other possibility other than “Burrows bit Bergeron.” Why would someone do all those actions if he wasn’t biting down? So it LOOKED LIKE he was doing something that’s suspension-worthy? So he’d get suspended or penalized for doing nothing? I don’t understand.
I’d be more OK if the league’s public reason for the non-suspension was something along the lines of, “Well, Burrows did bite Bergeron, but come on people, it’s the finals, these things happen; also Burrows is an important player, and you know how we treat the better players” (which could very well be the actual reason). I would disagree with any reason the league could pass forth for not suspending Burrows, but their actual reason, that they could not determine intent or the actual action, is probably the worst, and it’s just embarrassing. Burrows bit Bergeron, you can’t deny it. And he intended to do it; you can’t bite and not intend to.
Aside from the fact that there’s no doubt that Burrows bit Bergeron’s hand (intentionally…I guess I have to add that), I feel like the league HAD to suspend Burrows based on the fact that the entire NBC crew was making a big deal out of the situation; pretty much every commentator/analyst commented on the incident and said that it was something he can’t do, and it was brought up several times, including during VERSUS’ post game. Since everyone watching the game was made aware of this point, and since everyone watching saw the biting incident, the NHL should have suspended Burrows, even if for nothing more than protecting the league’s image.
Game 1 of this series was ugly enough. The Bruins are probably going to go after Burrows. Game 2 will be even uglier. There was already one injury last game (Dan Hamhuis, some time after hitting Milan Lucic and receiving a David Krejci cross-check). It’s playoff hockey, so it’s going to be more intense than most games, but you can’t let someone bite another player and get away with it with no penalty; it sends a terrible message, to both the players and the fans.
I can’t wait to see what someone does next to warrant a non-suspension. I mean, it’s the playoffs, anything goes, right?