Some perspective on Burrows and Bergeron
VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- While we're not in the least condoning Alex Burrows' decision to make Patrice Bergeron's right index finger an in-game snack in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals, we also believe there's been a vast overreaction in some sectors to the bite felt 'round the world.
Burrows was not suspended after league officials decided Thursday that they couldn't prove he deliberately bit Bergeron's finger in the Canucks' series-opening 1-0 victory Wednesday. Both players were penalized after their in-game scuffle, with Burrows receiving a double minor for roughing.
It was all the media here could talk about Thursday in the first off day before Saturday's Game 2. But we have to provide a little perspective.
On the list of infractions in the history of hockey, this hardly ranks among the most violent or disgraceful. Post-whistle scrums are a part of the sport. Let's not make this Mike Tyson mistaking Evander Holyfield's ear for a potato chip.
It's every man for himself in these post-whistle scrums. It is sometimes a chance for a player or team to make a statement. Think about an NFL player going after a fumbled ball. Think about what can happen in that pileup with players fighting for possession. You might not always see what happens in there, but you know it's not pretty.
NHL scrums also are a moment in the game when humor sneaks in. Remember what microphones captured in HBO's "24/7"?
"I don't remember any biting, but I remember a guy like Ken Baumgartner being always comical," Hall of Famer Joe Nieuwendyk, now GM of the Dallas Stars, told ESPN.com on Thursday. "He would skate into a scrum after the whistle and say, 'All right, boys, daddy's home. Anyone want a spanking?'"
Canucks fourth-liner Alex Bolduc, a French-Canadian player like Burrows and Bergeron, put his own spin on the bite.
"I was telling the guys in the room this morning, that's how French guys say hi," Bolduc said. "If you really respect a guy, you stick a finger in his mouth. That's how you show respect in Quebec."
Bolduc was kidding ... we think.
Bergeron took the high road Thursday, saying he did not want to waste any more time on this Game 1 tale. Burrows, for the record, was not made available to the media Thursday.
"I'd like to just move on here. ... I don't want to whine about it," Bergeron said.
Bruins coach Claude Julien, who was not pleased with Burrows' act, said Thursday that he's seen a lot worse in scrums from his playing days.
"Obviously, things were a lot different in those days," said Julien, who didn't back down from anyone as a player. "In those days, I remember a lot of gouging, a lot of biting. It was fair game at that time. Obviously, the rules have gotten a little tighter. Those kinds of things right now are deemed unacceptable. Like I said, I just find that it's too bad that something like that has to happen in the Stanley Cup finals. I think there's better ways of resolving issues than getting to that issue. It is what it is, and, like I said, we're moving on here."
Coaching counterpart Alain Vigneault, interestingly, had a different memory of those playing days and what it was like in scrums. The coaches were teammates in Salt Lake City.
"Back then, you didn't have a lot of scrums after the whistle," the Canucks' coach said Thursday. "If something was going to happen, it was going to be a fight. It wasn't a lot of pushing and shoving. It was either, 'Let's go,' or guys went back to their benches."
Boston president and Hall of Fame player Cam Neely wasn't thrilled with the league's decision not to suspend Burrows given some compelling video and pictorial evidence that Burrows did bite Bergeron.
"Never been bitten, and I've never bitten anyone," Neely told ESPN.com on Thursday. "Everybody hopes they get everything right all the time, but it just doesn't happen that way."
Scrums aren't going away. This likely isn't the last time we'll see a player bite an opponent, in any sport. But this isn't going to become an epidemic in the NHL. The league has bigger issues -- hits to the head and concussions to name a few.
We've talked about it for the day. Now, it's time to move on.