It's part of human nature to push back against someone who is criticizing your work:
Vancouver forward Alexandre Burrows got a 10-minute misconduct for telling referee Stephane Auger what he thought of him late in Monday night's 3-2 loss to Nashville.
Burrows could be facing punishment from the NHL after sharing his opinion with the media after the game, including accusations Auger targeted him and promised to get revenge.
Burrows scored twice, but was in the penalty box for a second time when Nashville's Shea Weber scored the game-winner with 4:03 to play.
He said Auger approached him before the game and told him he was going to get him back for embellishing a Dec. 8 hit in Nashville that left Burrows crumpled on the ice, and resulted in Predators forward Jerred Smithson receiving a 5-minute major penalty for charging.
"It was personal," Burrows said. "It started in warm up before the anthem. The ref came over to me and said I made him look bad in Nashville on the Smithson hit. He said he was going to get me back tonight and he did his job in the third."
Auger and the officiating crew declined to comment when approached by The Associated Press as they were leaving the arena.
Burrows was called for diving early in the period, and then for interference with 4:45 left, just 4 seconds into a Vancouver power play. Linemate Henrik Sedin received his third penalty of the game 18 seconds later and Weber scored the winning goal on a 4-on-3.
"He called me on a diving call. I didn't think was diving, he got me on an interference call. I have no idea how he could call that and it changed the game," Burrows said, adding his teammates "are battling hard for 60 minutes to win a hockey game because every two points are so huge, so important, and because of a guy's ego it just blows everything out of proportion and they're making bad calls and the fans are paying for it and we're paying for it."
Burrows received a third penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct and a 10-minute misconduct with less than 4 seconds left in the game.
"After my second penalty I skated by him and he said 'If you say a word I am going to kick you out,' so I didn't say a word because I still thought we could come back and win the game," Burrows said. "But with 3 seconds left and the faceoff outside the zone I thought I could tell him what I thought about him."
If you let your goal scoring, and your overall level of play do the talking for you, the referee has no where to go, in terms of retaliating against you. Let him talk. Let him say whatever he's going to say as you smile and skate away. Once others pick up on what he's doing, continue to do nothing. Play hard, score, and keep smiling. There's no way to win a fight with a referee in hockey.
That being said, if someone overheard Auger saying whatever he said, then Auger needs to answer to the league for his conduct as well. Even though it can get deeply personal on the ice, it has to stay professional. Fighting used to be a release valve for this kind of anger. Why is the referee getting involved in a matter that should be settled between Burrows and Smithson on the ice, which is where it belongs? If someone on the opposing team thought Burrows was flopping or playing dirty, that's when Smithson has to be the one to step up in order to defend himself. Burrows would then defend his actions, push back against the other team, or back off entirely. What you want is for the two players at the center of the controversy, and I don't see where there's much of one, to handle it between themselves.
This doesn't have to be settled with a fight, per se, but it could be settled in the course of a game with no need for anything more than a handshake at the end of the game. But it really comes down to the character of your team. Do you let the other team play that way? It's on Smithson to step up. If he can't enforce the unwritten rules of hockey, then a team enforcer has to fill the gap. If Burrows needed support from his own team in the form of an enforcer to deal with the other team's enforcer, then so be it. When you have the players regulating game conduct, and rightfully so, then the referees don't have to step in. There must be something broken here, otherwise, why would Auger even care? Why would he carry business from one game into another game?
What some misunderstand as thuggery is actually a gentleman's way of maintaining decorum. It used to work rather well.