• Rome to spend suspension working at Fantasy Gardens

    by  • June 7, 2011 • Post, Uncategorized • 16 Comments

    Every so often, I’m amazed that Brian Burke went to law school. When Kevin Lowe defended the Dustin Penner contract and the change in the league in terms of paying 20-something players more and 30-something players less on the grounds that it was a good thing because it meant that the league was paying the guys who produce results, I thought to myself “Whoa…hold on there César Chávez! You work for the Oilers – your interest is in whatever’s best for the Oilers, not ensuring that people are paid equitably.” I then sort of sigh and shake my head and worry about my team but cut Lowe a little slack because, as well spoken as he is, he hasn’t had the benefit of a higher education (although he’s clearly not a dumb guy).

    Brian Burke’s different. He is an exceedingly well educated guy and obviously very bright. He practiced as a lawyer for many years. He should, in the course of his career and education, have had the opportunity to think about some of this stuff. When he says things like this, I shake my head and wonder what he’s on about:

    Do you admire a criminal lawyer who gets a murderer off on a technicality? So why would there be admiration or appreciation for finding a loophole that somehow defeats the purpose of a collective bargaining agreement that’s designed to put teams on the same footing? I have no problem with long-term deals if they’re straight across the board, but not if the last few years are designed to reduce the cap hit and nothing else. I’m not being critical of other teams that do. But if a team has four guys on contract like that, they’re actually icing a team with false values on their players. And if another team is playing it square, then you’re losing ground.

    It’s as if he forgets what a lawyer’s duty is – his duty is to represent his client’s interests fearlessly. He SHOULD know this. Should you admire a criminal lawyer who gets a murderer off on a technicality? That’s up to you but I’d rather have him represent me than the guy who says “Ah, I’m sure the cops beat the confession out of you in good faith.” If I was a Leafs fan, would I have taken much comfort watching Chicago play Philadelphia last year from the fact that those teams had a bunch of contracts designed to cheat the system and Toronto didn’t? Would I have said “Well, at least Burke has all of our guys on legitimate contracts that don’t try to cheat the system and if you don’t count the teams that do that, we’re much closer to making the imaginary playoffs in Fairy Tale Land?” Of course not.

    Aaron Rome got suspended for four games today. In the course of announcing this, Mike Murphy, who is running the discipline for the Finals due to Colin Campbell’s conflict of interest) made the following comment according to Elliotte Friedman:

    Murphy: Brian Burke was consulted, because of his experience in suspending Claude Lemieux in 1996less than a minute ago via Twitter for BlackBerry® Favorite Retweet Reply

    So much for the NHL’s newfound appreciation of conflicts of interest. Burke has had some public bumps in his relationship with the Canucks. There’s an HF Boards thread here referencing a Globe and Mail story that has some interesting stuff. He had a dispute with the Canucks over allegations that he was tampering with the Sedins in 2009. His contract wasn’t renewed despite having turned them into an exciting team that consistently made the playoffs. It would be reasonable for an outside observer to suspect that he doesn’t want to see Vancouver win the Stanley Cup.

    But he’s also conflicted the other way as well! If Boston wins the Stanley Cup, the first round pick that the Leafs got in the Tomas Kaberle deal is 30th overall. If they lose the Stanley Cup, it’s 29th. So he has a professional interest in seeing Boston lose. The rare dual conflict!

    It is incredible that the league would go out and canvass this issue with a GM with the history with Vancouver and interest in seeing Boston lose that Burke has. It looks terrible, particularly when the suspension was unusually severe – I’m not sure that anyone’s ever received a four game suspension in the Finals before. It’s all the more incredible when conflicts of interest have been a hot topic in the league office of late. Burke isn’t acting in his capacity as a lawyer here, so he’s really got no professional duties or anything, but he should know better than to get himself involved in something like this.

    At the very least, it doesn’t look good. There’s a cliche that justice shouldn’t just be done, it should be seen to be done. When you’ve got someone with a history with the Canucks and an interest in a Bruins loss with his finger in the suspension pie, it’s impossible to accomplish that. The reason for consulting him is lame; so he suspended Lemieux in 1996 – who cares? It’s not like he’s the best brain surgeon in the world or the question or whether or not to do it is a deep metaphysical thing that requires years of contemplation. The issues are straightforward enough that they can be hashed out by whoever happens to be kicking around hockey operations who isn’t already conflicted out. One would have thought that, by now, the league would have learned this.


    16 Responses to Rome to spend suspension working at Fantasy Gardens

    1. Lord Tunderin'
      June 7, 2011 at

      Spot on in regards to Burke being consulted.

      Compared to incidents in the regular season and the current constitution of the rulebook (which needs revision), the suspension was too harsh in my opinion.

    2. Bruce McCurdy
      June 7, 2011 at

      Absolutely terrible optics. And Burke is a terrible lawyer if he said one word more than “I’ll recuse myself” or whatever it is you lawyers say.

    3. June 7, 2011 at

      “Whoa…hold on there César Chávez! You work for the Oilers – your interest is in whatever’s best for the Oilers, not ensuring that people are paid equitably.”

      Tangentially related: I’ve been kicking around an onion-style spoof where Ken King calls a PC and explains (in blatantly progressive terms) that the Flames extremely “generous” pay and NTC policies over the last few years has been a grass-roots attempt to improve moral/procedural justice to player pay structures in the league.

    4. Dman09
      June 7, 2011 at

      Complete and utter crap. Rome did nothing wrong on that hit. If you time it. The hit was literally 1 sec after the puck left horton’s stick,I can’t get fractional secs right now but it is possible it was less than a second. Not sure 1 sec is long enough to be considered a late hit. He did not hit to the head, use an elbow, or jump to make the hit, they both came off the ice once the hit commenced which tends to happen when there is a lot of momentum. It was not a blindside hit, horton just wasn’t paying attention and was crouched down low. The only reason he is getting suspended is because horton’s head hit the ice and he was injuried.

    5. ColmCanada
      June 7, 2011 at

      Steve Tambellini was so shocked that he blinked twice.

    6. Coach Pb
      June 7, 2011 at

      There’s no doubt in my mind the league had no idea what they were doing when they leaked the Burke thing. I’d be willing to bet that they assumed they could bring credibility to the decision by referencing Burke because the average fan would say “Oh, Brian Burke, very smart guy, fair and tough, good idea.”

      Murphy, Campbell, Bettman, Daly, whoever decided to float that, never considered the ramifications

    7. June 7, 2011 at

      I’m not saying that’s not an interesting nugget and this is the first time I’ve read it.

      What struck me initially, though, was Murphy citing the severity of Horton’s injury as a determining factor. I think it should be intent and irresponsibility first and foremost.

      Also, just ban all headshots altogether and have that over and done with and make that one less additional factor for determination.

    8. June 7, 2011 at

      Uh…did you talk to Mark Spector about this or is he just ripping you off?

      Murphy copped that, among others, he consulted former NHL discipline czar Brian Burke in the process. Yeah, Burke — the Toronto Maple Leafs GM whose draft pick (acquired from Boston) will be either 29th or 30th, depending on whether Boston or Vancouver wins this series.

      Oh, and by the way? Burke was fired by the Canucks, and is now watching the team he largely built take a run at the Cup.

      We won’t impune Burke’s character here we honestly believe he would have given Murphy his straight and reasoned opinion.

      But asking another GM?

      Especially one that has a perceived rooting interest?


      I mean…maybe Spector came to the exact same conclusion as you, but it still strikes me as fishy.

    9. June 7, 2011 at

      there’s been a lot of ripping off going on lately; some are even publicizing it;)

    10. Bruce McCurdy
      June 7, 2011 at

      No that’s a Spector original. If Tyler had written it, surely he would have spelled “impugn” correctly. :|

      That said, with all the conversation oin Twitter these days, that sort of information is out there for anyone who follows the right people.

    11. Leaf in Habland
      June 8, 2011 at

      Who cares? He was consulted on procedure, which probably means: “Hey Brian, if the series ends before 7 games, does the suspension carry over to the regular season, and if so, are games doubled?”

      As if this decision could impact the series more than the hit already did. Boston lost one of their best forwards. Vancouver stood to lose their 6th or 7th best defenseman. The stakes on this were very low.

      Non-issue. The comparison to lawyering is over-stating the importance of sport. Jail time vs. a four-game suspension? Not even close. Appearance of justice when we are talking about actual justice is vital. Appearance of justice in professional sport? There are a lot of other things to clean up first before you go worrying about something like this.

      As for the hit, I’m surprised he was suspended for that long. It’s clearly a case of: big injury=suspension. But then, the NHL has never been consistent with these things, so why start now?

    12. Tyler Dellow
      June 8, 2011 at

      He wasn’t consulted on procedure. Does it really seem likely to you that the league doesn’t know how a suspension works? If you read the transcript of the call with Murphy, you’ll see that he asked Burke about his “formula” – that’s not procedure, that’s substantive.

      As for the rest of it, sure we aren’t talking death penalty litigation. At the same time, the NHL is in the business of selling a clean competition to people. Does asking someone as conflicted as Burke raise questions? I think it does.

    13. Leaf in Habland
      June 8, 2011 at

      The point of the suspension should be to ensure the safety of players, and punish the player who committed the infraction. I’m less concerned with whether it looks fair and more concerned with how effective it is in improving safety. Not that it will, but if we are talking aspirationally, then that’s my focus.

      And actually, I would not be surprised if the league didn’t know their own rules. I guess on a list of things the nhl gets wrong, this falls pretty low on my list of concerns.

      • May 7, 2014 at

        Glad I’ve finally found soitehmng I agree with!

    14. dawgbone
      June 8, 2011 at


      Sorry, but the hit was late. Not only was it late but Rome didn’t hold up at all. You have about half a second after the puck is gone to deliver a hit. You could argue that he was already committed to the hit and it would have been impossible to not hit him (which I could understand), but for that argument to have any merit Rome would have had to have held up on the hit.

      As for not paying attention, he passed the puck at the blueline and had to make sure he stayed onside. You could see him scan around before passing the puck and there was no threat. It wasn’t until after he passed the puck that Rome went in for the hit.

    15. beingbobbyorr
      June 8, 2011 at

      If they are going to weigh the results of a hit into the suspension/penalty — though we’d like them to judge the hit alone — I’d like it if they also weighed whether the victim had his helmet secured properly and whether he was wearing his mouthguard (key protection in the war on concussions), too.

      I’m not a fan of league-wide mandates that demand players must wear such-and-such equipment (i.e., visors), but I’d like to see some cap relief for club bonuses doled out to players who do secure their lid, wear the mouthguard, and don a visor.

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