|Alex Burrows' audition for the next "Twilight" movie|
There are unwritten rules in every sport that forbid certain things that may not be clearly defined in the official rulebook. Hockey-specific examples include stomping, like Bobby Ryan did in this year's playoffs and Chris Simon did a few years ago, slew-footing, and diving. But one action that is forbidden in any sport is biting. Even in boxing and mixed martial arts, if you consider them sports, biting is not tolerated. Remember the Tyson-Holyfield incident? Across all sports, biting is considered a dangerous and cowardly act.
Last night, in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals between Boston and Vancouver, Vancouver's Alex Burrows committed this forbidden act. After the first period ended, Burrows became engaged in a typical scrum with Boston's Patrice Bergeron. They were held apart by the referee, while the players traded what are called facewashes, where one player puts his glove in the face of another. Facewashing usually occurs in altercations involving two players like Bergeron and Burrows that generally do not fight. Facewashes are not considered punches, and often do not lead to penalties. It was a typical post-whistle scrum in an NHL playoff game.
Then, with Bergeron's glove in his face, Burrows put his mouth over one of the fingers on Bergeron's right hand, and bit down. The bite left a small cut on Bergeron's finger. Burrows received four minutes of penalty time, and Bergeron two.
This afternoon, the NHL announced Burrows would not be suspended. NHL Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations Mike Murphy, who has taken the disciplinarian role in the NHL after Colin Campbell stepped down, said "After reviewing the incident, including speaking with the on-ice officials, I can find no conclusive evidence that Alex Burrows intentionally bit the finger of Patrice Bergeron."
Here's two pieces of conclusive evidence: the video clearly shows Burrows biting down on Bergeron's finger, and Bergeron's finger was cut. To me, that's enough evidence for a suspension.
In fairness, injured Bruins center Marc Savard was accused of biting Philadelphia's Daniel Carcillo in last year's playoffs. The NHL searched for video that would show the incident, but none was found, so Savard wasn't suspended. If there was conclusive evidence, I would've supported a suspension, just as I would hope everyone would.
In this case, there is clear evidence that Burrows did bite Bergeron. It doesn't matter that Bergeron's hand was in his face. That's part of hockey, especially in the playoffs.Burrows had his hand in Bergeron's face as well. In the video, it doesn't look like Bergeron put his finger in Burrows' mouth. It looks like Burrows wrapped his mouth around Bergeron's finger, and then bit.
Biting is a cowardly act forbidden in every sport. Alex Burrows intentionally bit Patrice Bergeron last night, but the league is going to hide behind a flimsy "lack of evidence" excuse to avoid suspending him. It's embarrassing for the NHL. Mike Murphy has all the evidence he needs; he's just ignoring it.