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Angry Canucks boycott 'Hockey Night In Canada' over 'character assassination'

The cold war between the Vancouver Canucks and Hockey Night In Canada doesn't appear ready to cool down any time soon. Viewers of Saturday night's game between the Canucks and the Chicago Blackhawks noted that no one from the Canucks appeared on the broadcast of the club's 5-1 win.

It wasn't a coincidence. Canucks management declined to confirm a Hockey Night embargo on Saturday, saying they are trying to move on. But sources tell Usual Suspects another story. They say the club is furious about what it considered a "one-sided character assassination" of forward Alex Burrows by Hockey Night host Ron MacLean on the Jan. 16 broadcast, so furious that it denied the show access to its players and staff on Saturday.

Just as vexing to the team is Hockey Night's reluctance to admit that it might have ignored CBC's journalistic fairness policy. MacLean and CBC did not attempt to get Burrows' version of the events being dissected, a basic premise in balanced reporting. Discussions last week between the team and CBC did not give the club satisfaction.

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So Saturday night, CBC sources say, the Canucks apparently told the venerable hockey program to "go fish."

"The Canucks did not want to do any interviews on the show last night," CBC spokesman Jeff Keay said. "We accepted their decision and we are now moving on from this issue."

For those not scoring at home, MacLean and Colin Campbell, the NHL's senior vice-president and director of hockey operations, spent 11 minutes branding Burrows as a diver and not trustworthy in his claim to have been threatened with revenge by referee Stéphane Auger in a 35-second chat before Vancouver's 3-2 loss to Nashville Jan. 11 (a chat even Auger admits was improper).

Auger assessed a controversial penalty (and a misconduct) to Burrows in the third period that resulted in a Predators win.

The NHL exonerated Auger in an internal investigation but fined Burrows $2,500 (U.S.).

While CBC says it has "a good relationship with all of the NHL clubs," sources tell Usual Suspects the network should not assume the Canucks are done with the issue. Management and players of the Northwest Division leaders will not be making nice with Hockey Night till the producers admit that MacLean erred, and he says as much.

The Canucks are not alone in judging MacLean's performance deficient. Scott Moore, CBC's vice-president in charge of sports, is standing by his man. But other sources at CBC, who requested anonymity, have described the piece in question as "over the line" and suggested it's not the first time Hockey Night has done so.

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So far, the show remains protected as a major moneymaker for CBC, but the public broadcaster has not been happy with how this story has played out in Vancouver.

Sean Gone

Maybe Sean Salisbury saw Mark McGwire apologize and said, "Why not me?" The former Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback and ESPN TV talking head has finally come clean about an incident that probably cost him his livelihood. Despite stringent denials from Salisbury, a story has persisted that he took cellphone shots of his penis in 2006 in a Connecticut bar and showed them to women in the bar.

ESPN suspended Salisbury at the time for the always popular "unspecified reasons," but did not associate him with the cellphone caper. (He was subsequently let go by ESPN.) Numerous outlets connected Salisbury to the incident or reported that an anonymous TV host had been showing pictures of his privates.

Still, Salisbury stonewalled. In 2008, he told the Deadspin website that the rumour was "so absurd and such a bald-faced lie. … It never happened." Salisbury said he was the victim of a smear campaign when he sued Deadspin in 2009.

But now? Maybe he had a blackout for four years. This week, Salisbury fessed up to the camera caper in USA Today. He called his barroom behaviour "stupid … but not malicious," and wondered how "I've gone from being on [TV]six days a week to disappearing." Uh, we at Usual Suspects think the answer to that is pretty straightforward.

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Hands-On Journalism

Perhaps Salisbury or Hockey Night need the help of Elena Di Cioccio, a reporter for Italian broadcaster Uno. Having heard the wife of AC Milan star David Beckham brag about her husband's anatomical prowess, Di Cioccio pulled on a pair of rubber gloves and grabbed Beckham's crotch while he was being interviewed in Milan for an American TV station.

"Off the pitch we have seen fascinating photographs of David Beckham in his underpants and seemingly very well endowed, and even his wife says that he is well equipped and calls him Golden Balls," Di Cioccio said through a translator. "I touched it, but it's small! David, you have conned us all. It's a trick!"

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