Alex Burrows catches first break of the season, doesn’t get suspended for hit on Ryan McDonagh

Breaking news: hitting is still allowed in the NHL.

As expected, Alex Burrows will not receive a suspension for his hit on Ryan McDonagh late in the game against the New York Rangers, because the people employed by the NHL’s Department of Player Safety have eyes.

This, of course, means that the curse that has stricken Burrows all season has finally been broken. A cursed Burrows would have been flown to New York for an in-person hearing and suspended for 15 games. Now, the last remnants of his curse could only tag him with a 5-minute elbowing major and a game misconduct. His nightmare is over.

 

My opinion on this will likely be dismissed as biased, but to me it looked like a clean hit with an awkward and unfortunate result. Burrows went in hard on the forecheck, but didn’t take strides into the hit, so it’s not charging. He hit him square in the chest, so it’s not a hit from behind. McDonagh was against the boards at the time rather than in the danger area a few feet out, so it’s not boarding.

It was called elbowing on the ice, but that doesn’t seem to be right either. The ref who called the penalty was behind McDonagh at the time, so his view was obscured, likely calling the penalty because of how McDonagh went down in pain, thinking Burrows made contact with the head. If Burrows did make contact with the head, it was minor contact simultaneous with the hit to the body or on the follow-through.

That won’t satisfy Rangers fans, who are upset to see their best player aside from Henrik Lundqvist injured right as they’re making their playoff push. That’s perfectly understandable, but their complaints about the hit just don’t hold any water.

If McDonagh had suffered a head injury, analyzing video of the hit and making freeze frames to try to show that the hit was to the head would make sense. Instead, he suffered a shoulder injury because of how he got awkwardly jammed into the boards. Trying to find head contact where there was none is nonsensical when McDonagh’s injury had nothing to do with his head.

Calling it a cheap hit because of the time left in the game also doesn’t make much sense. The Canucks were down by two with less than a minute left but had their goalie pulled and were trying desperately to tie the game. Their slim playoff hopes rested on their ability to recover the puck on the forecheck and get a quick goal.

The complaint is then that Burrows came in with no intent to play the puck, but clearly only had eyes to make a hard hit on McDonagh, with his hands and stick up rather than down along the ice. I’m not really sure what the argument is here, though: hitting is part of the game of hockey.

McDonagh had the puck so Burrows had two options: he could try to poke check him with his stick, risking that McDonagh slips by him, gets around the net, and clears the puck or he could try to hit him to separate him from the puck. He chose to make the hit and it worked. As the whistle blew, the Canucks had gained possession of the puck and were sending it to the point for a shot. It was a hockey play to regain possession of the puck on the forecheck that had an unfortunate result.

The other argument I saw rested on Burrows reputation: he’s a dirty or cheap player, so the hit must have been dirty or cheap. Burrows gets no benefit of the doubt from opposition fans: if his hands were a little high, then he was clearly aiming for the head with an intent to injure. If it was late in the game, it can’t have been an ordinary hit on the forecheck, it must have been predatory on an unsuspecting player.

Here’s the thing: that’s not actually his reputation. Burrows certainly has a reputation for cheap or dirty moves, but they’re all in post-whistle scrums or fights. I’m not going to defend the times that he has bit fingers or pulled hair, but I will absolutely defend him if someone claims he has a history of cheap or dirty hits. He’s not that type of player. Someone who claims he has a reputation for dirty hits doesn’t have any idea what they’re talking about.

With the Department of Player Safety giving Burrows a pass on the McDonagh hit, Burrows has yet to receive a single suspension in his career.

30 comments

  1. chazz
    April 2, 2014

    Nicely written! I laughed when Sportsnet’s story about this hit had Sportsnet footage but NY Rangers audio feed, attempting I guess to make it all seem more dramatic than it really was.

    Sportsnet=NHL’s National Enquirer

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  2. DK
    April 2, 2014

    “because the people employed by the NHL’s Department of Player Safety have eyes.”

    Seems pretty dubious. Do you have a source?

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  3. Lemming
    April 2, 2014

    I’ll give people who rail on about Burrows the hair pulling thing, but I genuinely can’t find another thing he’s done that’s bad, or dirty, or was a hit with intent to injure.
    People can bring up Bergeron all they want, but if Bergeron didn’t like Burrows’ yapping, the wrong thing to do was to stuff his fingers in his mouth. I’d have bit too. That’s not dirty, that’s a guy who was putting his fingers in another guy’s mouth because he’s not too bright.

    I would love to find a series of Burrows hitting with intent to injure. I would love to, but I can’t, because there’s not a single instance of it.

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    • Brian
      April 2, 2014

      Yes, I agree about the finger-biting episode. I think Burrows himself said at the time something along the lines of “if you don’t want your fingers bitten, don’t stick them in my mouth.” Hard to argue with.

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  4. Wetcoaster
    April 3, 2014

    Between his foot, his jaw, his thumb, and now his tooth, I’d argue that just about the only things that Burr has caught this year are breaks.

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  5. Mb13
    April 3, 2014

    Am I the only one that thinks that hit was pretty dirty?

    It was legal yes. But other than trying to hurt the guy… what was the point of that hit?

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    • Daniel Wagner
      April 3, 2014

      Separating the man from the puck. He was successful in doing so. What’s the point in any hit? That one actually had a more legitimate purpose than when someone “finishes their check” after the puck has been played away.

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      • mb13
        April 3, 2014

        The guy was engaged with Kassian. Burrows blind sides him and makes zero attempt at the puck. It was the Ranger that played the puck after he was hit so Burrows wasn’t successful from separating the man from the puck… had he not hurt the guy, the Ranger probably would not have played a limp clearance to the point. Whether he got it out or not is a different story.

        Again – I’m not saying it was illegal. It was cheap. Something Burrows is quite familiar with… maybe his injury plagued season is karma for is prior misdeeds.

        The people that praise this hit are the ones that were probably drooling over Archiblald’s hit in the minors this year and not realizing that he got very little accomplished other than hitting a guy. It’s a mentality that is 10 years old at least… the game has evolved since then.

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        • 5minutesinthebox
          April 4, 2014

          How would you consider that a blindside? He hit him in the shoulder. Do you consider it blindside because McDonagh doesnt see him coming? That is not the definition of blindside.
          The only reason McDonagh was hurt was because he went awkwardly into the boards with his shoulder. Thats just an unfortunate circumstance.
          Most player dont make a play on the puck when they body check a player. You make a decision, use the check to seperate the player from the puck, or go after the puck and not the body.
          Whether burrows was successful is completely irrelevant to the argument. There was nothing ‘cheap’ about that hit whatsoever. It was simply a hockey play that had an unfortunate outcome.
          How can you possibly think that a hit like Archibalds would get little accomplished. A hit like that pumps up your team mates, puts a fear into opposing players (causing them to make mistakes), and gets the crowd behind you in you are the home team. It can completely change the complexion of a game.

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  6. Warpstone
    April 3, 2014

    I feel bad for Burrows. A suspension would have let him take an early break from this gong-show of a season. :D

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  7. joe froh
    April 3, 2014

    Fully empathize it hasn’t been a good season for the Canucks and Burrows. But there’s no excuse for hitting a defenseless guy when he’s already pinned, it’s punching someone when someone is holding them back. There is zero respect. But for an unbiased read on this, look at Paul Stewart’s take on this.
    http://www.hockeybuzz.com/blog/Paul-Stewart/Burrows-Hit-on-McDonagh-Where-Were-the-Rangers/196/59112#.Uz2N0NU2rEs.twitter

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    • Harrison Mooney
      April 3, 2014

      That’s not even remotely an unbiased read.

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      • joe froh
        April 3, 2014

        Not sure which part of it you feel is biased or unbiased.
        1) The part about Burrows’ reputation
        2) Rangers response or lack of response
        3) The fact that Burrows is one of the disliked players in the game.
        There have been and largely always will be “rats” in the game. Kenny Linseman wore it well. Marchand is in the same boat. Lemieux (NJD) was a rat also. Orpik fits the bill.
        Most teams have a guy who is the enforcer or who plays on the edge. Forget the reaction from partisan Ranger fans and concentrate on a defenseless hit. Are you defending it? I understand the timing part and things happen at a high speed but this wasn’t one of those. I love hitting in the game and it needs to stay but there’s a fine line. That’s what Stewart was talking about. It’s part of the unwritten code. That’s where it crossed the line and I felt Stewart felt it too.

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        • Daniel Wagner
          April 3, 2014

          I disagree with 1, definitely. Burrows has a reputation, sure, but it’s never been one connected with dirty hits. It’s completely disingenuous to suggest that he has that reputation.

          I’m defending Burrows, because it was a completely clean hit with an unfortunate result.

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          • joe froh
            April 3, 2014

            The point that Mooney made was that the article was biased. I was speculating on what he thought was off center and tried to pin it down. I don’t see enough of Burrows on a regular basis to have a solid enough opinion but that’s his reputation, deserved or undeserved. Obviously I have a problem with cheap hits in the game. I also have a problem with coaches who don’t stick up for their players which was my larger point. AV has a real issue with that one from the past and I wonder how the league polices itself. Do we need to have a Bertuzzi incident as a result? Nobody wants that, I certainly don’t but players need to avoid senseless incidents. It was obvious from the first hit by Sedin on McDonagh he was a marked man and clearly Tortorella told his players to go after one of NY’s elite players. But not in the last minute of a game with intent to injure, that’s how it appeared to me. No difference to me if a guy uses a stick or his body to deliberately injure…there’s just no need for it in the game. It’s a cheap BS play, nobody wants to see it live or on TV. Get your frustrations out elsewhere.

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            • Daniel Wagner
              April 3, 2014

              It’s hard for me to see any article from an ex-ref on Burrows as unbiased, as the reffing fraternity closed ranks pretty quickly when Burrows criticized Auger.

              I saw no intent to injure from Burrows on that hit, because it’s the type of hit that happens dozens of times in a game. I’m not sure how Burrows could have foreseen that McDonagh would jam his shoulder on the boards. And again, it’s not him getting his frustrations out late in a game: he’s forechecking and taking the man to free up the puck. It’s a hockey play.

              As for the aftermath, I’m not sure what the Rangers were supposed to do. Jump Burrows and start pounding him, a defenceless, unsuspecting player? Seems pretty hypocritical.

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              • joe froh
                April 3, 2014

                NO. That hit doesn’t happen dozens of times in a game. NO. And if you didn’t think that hit was to injure, I am speechless.
                IMO not sure what refs are thinking on the ice half the time. I have a hard time believing that the entire ref community circled fences, they’re too incompetent to do that. I thought it was an honest reaction. What does concern me is the way AV’s teams have played and reacted in the past and in the future. My point is it’s not really a hockey play, it’s a thug move. Mooney said the article missed the piece. That’s the part which was a no fit.
                Nobody wants to see a brawl, that would be hypocritical. However, some of the Ranger players could have slowed him down, including Martin St. Louis, he doesn’t get a pass on it. Or Girardi. Also, it’s the coach’s call and why he let him log heavy minutes and on the ice at that point is also worthy of reflection. Opens up the game for rats.

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            • Harrison Mooney
              April 3, 2014

              Paul Stewart is a former ref in the process of pitching an autobiography, so he’s started blogging over at HockeyBuzz to generate some chatter. His posts have been aggressive, confrontational, and controversial, which is a tactical approach.

              On top of this, as a former ref, he’s going to defend refs, and we already know that a number of them don’t like Burrows, especially after the Auger incident.

              In this one, he all but says he hates Burrows, assassinates his character, and then goes after him for a hit the league already deemed non-suspendable. As Daniel already broke down, Burrows had plenty of hockey reasons for making that hit. The only reason you’d decide it was particularly dirty is if you don’t like Burrows at the beginning of your assessment, which is what happened here.

              So yeah. Not even remotely unbiased.

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              • joe froh
                April 3, 2014

                The real point Stewart made was really the lack of response from the Rangers. He was a ref for over 1,000 games and made it to the playoffs a lot. That’s the sign that the league thought he was a good ref. Stewart makes a fundamental point throughout the article about whether or not that hit is a cheap shot or not. We can agree to disagree but that’s really the focus of his article and it wasn’t biased towards AV or the Rangers. Auger is a footnote as he should be. The league probably paid him to go away since he wasn’t good enough which should happen more often. The article basically condemned the Rangers for a lack of reaction on the ice and he’s right. It also didn’t have to result in fisticuffs, the players could have changed the hit as well, that’s what he said. It’s just not a good hockey play by Burrows or one that the Rangers or AV should be proud of either. The game is played fast and hard as it should be but at the end of the day, these plays don’t belong.

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            • Rangers (and Canucks) Fan
              April 3, 2014

              Know what the Burrows hit reminded me of? The hit by Stralman on Kassian at the end of the 1st period. Both took place at the end of the period. The respective hitees were in what could be considered vulnerable positions: Kassian was turning with his back mostly to Stralman, and McDonagh was somewhat tied up with Kassian. Both players went awkwardly into the boards and got a minor injury. So to say that hit is unusual and never happens… No.

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        • Lemming
          April 3, 2014

          I don’t know who you are, but I’m convinced that you have a massive confirmation bias when it comes to Burrows. There’s no point is even trying to refute what you say, because as we’ve seen from Daniel and Harrison, I’m also convinced that you’re a sensational shill.
          Good day.

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      • MB13
        April 3, 2014

        But it’s completely 100% true.

        It was a cheap play. And the Rangers look as though they have the passive response to these types of plays that the Vignault Canucks did.

        What part do you not agree with?

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  8. Mb13
    April 3, 2014

    Harrison/Daniel,

    saying the play is legal and OK is beside the point.

    Weber winding up from the point and shooting the puck at a player’s face on purpose is perfectly legal… you would defend this action also?

    Remember when, was it, Alfredson shot the puck at an opponent as time expired… legal play… he got lambasted for it.

    Sean Avery facing up Martin Brodeur was legal at the time – he got criticized for it being cheap.

    It was a cheap play by Burrows. Who cares if it is in the rules.

    I could understand if Burrows actually had his stick on the ice and attempted to play the puck and took out his man. I could understand if this play happened with 10 minutes left (sending a message to d-men to watch out thus making them less effective retrieving pucks dumped in).

    I can see Burrows’ career is coming full circle… he’s on his way down from being effective player to a nuisance for the other team (rat as some of you like to say) to probably heading to the minors and ECHL to finish up. Good symmetry. And good riddance.

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  9. joe froh
    April 3, 2014

    MB13: you get it. I haven’t seen enough of Burrows as I said before to really have a good opinion. The point I was trying to make was Stewart had an opinion of how the game should be played (also the reaction from a hockey standpoint). Mooney thought he and all refs are biased because of a ref who is out of the game and because the guy is writing a book and needs pr. What bullshit. Nobody cares. Stewart knows it and everyone else does too. Only way it sells a lot is if he has stories about Bobby Orr or Wayne Gretzky in uncompromising positions. Seriously…
    Everyone was getting defensive about Burrows but what needs to happen in the sport is important: enough of the cheap worthless shots. Play the game hard and the right way. Anyone who has seen and respects the game gets the point.

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  10. Cody
    April 3, 2014

    Joe Froh^ I need to disagree that players need to police themselves. Things on the ice happen quickly and often player perceptions are coloured by team-mates comments, who got hurt, and who did the hurting. In a game where emotions run high and pressure to win keeps increasing the last thing we need is a player policed game. I’ve always viewed the Bertuzzi-Moore incident as a perfect example of what can happen when unwritten rules/codes exist. What happens when one team views a player as not adhering to these rules? In a situation, so full of emotion, bias, and prejudicial distortion there needs to be some sort of outside entity available to enforce the written rules. We call these Referees and their job is to ensure that any team trying to break the rules of the game is punished. Admittedly they are not perfect, but they are in a position to make a more objective decision on a play than a player with obvious connections to a team-mate.
    I know you didn’t specifically refer to the need for the code to be upheld (you just talked about players slowing up the man attempting the hit) but Stewart does in his article. He refers to the fact that “you had better show TEAM toughness” which to me means going after the guy who just hit your team mate. I would prefer to see a hockey world where the rules are enforced and the players know they will be enforced. No more talk about slowing down the game, or Refs getting in the way too much. Hockey rules enforced consistently will decrease hockey plays like this as each player will know that he’ll get called on it. As illegal plays decrease with consistently enforced rules, so will the “slowing down of the game”.
    Burrows play was dealt with correctly. The ref made the call based on what he was able to see of the player in the vulnerable position and his reaction to the hit. No supplemental discipline is necessary because the guys who can slow the game down and review the play closely saw nothing wrong.

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  11. Anthony
    April 3, 2014

    The injury occurred from the hit into the borders but their still was an elbow/forearm to the head. I agree not enough to grant a suspension but you are wrong in saying that the call on the ice was incorrect. I agree burrows should try to separate the player and the puck there even though he’s defenseless but I was taught to keep my elbows and arms down. He had a great check lined up but instead of putting his shoulder in the guys chest, he pussied out.

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    • Daniel Wagner
      April 3, 2014

      And instead of making a fair and logical point, you finished off with sexism. So close, too.

      I disagree that there was elbow or forearm contact with the head. It looks like he makes contact with the chest, with his gloves maybe making contact with the face on the follow-through. I do agree that he should have instead lowered his shoulder into McDonagh’s chest, but it’s entirely possible the angle and timing wasn’t right for him to get the shoulder on him. I don’t know. All I know is what I can see.

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  12. JIMBO
    April 6, 2014

    The man is a goon and the league should have suspended him for 20 games. What the NHL gets wrong over other major sports is that protecting the stars sells the sport. It is a shame that this could negatively impact the Rangers ability to go deep in the playoffs without 100% production from it’s top player. Canada can take credit for inventing hockey but also must take credit for the ugly side of the game. The barbaric side that is promoted from youth hockey in canada. Let’s be honest Canada, the goon game is your elephant in the room.

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  13. Dave
    April 15, 2014

    Hit in the chest and not from behind? Talk about homerism. Enjoy your long vacation Canucks fans.

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    • Daniel Wagner
      April 15, 2014

      Yes, hit in the chest, because he hit him in the chest. Normally when you hit someone from behind, you hit them in the back. Burrows hit him in the chest.

      Enjoy your long vacation from being a rational human being.

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