Add the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's Ron MacLean to the Vancouver Canucks' growing list of enemies.
The Hockey Night in Canada host was criticized by Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault after his team beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in the late game of the CBC's Saturday night doubleheader. Vigneault was objecting to a pre-game segment with MacLean and NHL director of hockey operations Colin Campbell.
"I'm not done with our boy Ron," Vigneault said on his way out of GM Place on Saturday.
MacLean, seated beside Campbell, went through a detailed video analysis of a Dec. 8 cross-check by Nashville Predators forward Jerred Smithson on Vancouver forward Alex Burrows. According to Burrows, NHL referee Stephane Auger cited that play and vowed to settle a score in a pre-game warning before Nashville's 3-2 victory over the Canucks on Monday.
"I'm happy he didn't see the Ron MacLean bashing prior to the game," Vigneault said from his post-game podium, where he has twice turned Burrows' lawyer this week. "I didn't think that was very fair."
"I saw parts of it. Well set up. Great job. Well set up to bash Burr. It was a great job by MacLean. Nicely set up."
Vigneault was then informed that MacLean has worked as a hockey official.
"Is that what he is?" the coach asked. "Okay, thanks for telling me."
In the segment, MacLean notes that the Smithson check happened in a week when headshots were topical, and prior to an NHL governors' meeting in Pebble Beach, California. He says that after the hit, Burrows brushes away teammate Roberto Luongo and Canucks trainer Mike Burnstein so that his embellished reaction gets more "bang for the buck."
Burrows, 28, said his teammates made him aware of MacLean's comments prior to the 6-2 victory over Pittsburgh, the defending Stanley Cup champions.
"I heard about it," Burrows said. "The guys talked to me about it a little bit before the game. It doesn't really bother me."
Vigneault, conversely, was extremely bothered.
"I think it's really quite unfair from your boy Ron MacLean to go after Alex the way he did tonight, and take the footage that he did tonight," he said on the CBC's After Hours program. "Ron MacLean should have had the footage of Auger and Burrows skating 31 seconds together prior to the game. That footage has never come out.
"You only see Auger and Burr talking to one another for about four seconds, but they did two full loops together and Stephane Auger and Alex Burrows agreed on everything that was said except for one thing."
Auger penalized Burrows twice in the third period of Monday's loss to Nashville and both calls were debatable. Burrows was in the box for game-winning goal.
According to Campbell, Auger denied telling Burrows that he would settle a score, but admitted that the Vancouver player had "embarrassed" him on the Smithson check. Auger assessed Smithson a five-minute penalty and a game misconduct, which were later rescinded by Campbell, on the request of Nashville general manager David Poile.
MacLean, a certified referee of the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association, said that Burrows's claims of personal bias were unbelievable. He showed four examples of Burrows's previous bad behaviour, as well as narrating the hit from Smithson.
"Obviously when Burrows went down, we all thought he was dead," the nine-time Gemini Award winner said. "And I think the things that really concern us were, one, the glance he has here. He'll look to see if, in fact, Steve Walkom, who was the other referee that night, or Stephane Auger, have a call.
"This is one thing that referees really key on: does a guy have a look, and obviously [Burrows]does. At that point, you are a bit suspicious if it's serious."
Vigneault has fired shots across the bow of MacLean, Auger and Campbell this week. On Thursday, he plainly said that he believes Burrows' version of the pre-game conversation with the official. He repeated the point Saturday.
"I've got to support my player, especially when I believe what they are saying is true," he said. "In life, got to support the truth."