VANCOUVER, B.C. – Having just turned the page on Alex Burrows’s referee controversy, Vancouver Canucks coach Alain Vigneault was back on the phone Thursday with the NHL discussing his team’s latest hot topic.
Minnesota enforcer Derek Boogard said Wednesday after the Wild’s 5-2 win over Vancouver that Canuck Darcy Hordichuk told him: “The coach is making us fight you guys.”
Vigneault, however, denies sending his tough guys over the boards to fight and that it wouldn’t surprise him if Hordichuk told Boogard he was under coach’s orders to fight, just to get the Minnesota player to square off with him.
“I had a conversation with (Colin) Campbell because I’m on (his) speed dial lately,” said Vigneault, referring the NHL’s top disciplinarian.
“I just told Coley I never said that, but I wouldn’t be surprised that he (Hordichuk) did say that and I sort of believe Boogard on this one.”
Hordichuk said after Thursday’s practice he didn’t recall exactly what was said before the gloves dropped but, with 72 minutes in penalties this season, he knows his role on the club.
Earlier in the week their topic of conversation was Burrows’s allegation referee Stephane Auger is biased against him.
Not only did Hordichuk engage Boogard, John Scott pummelled Vancouver rookie Alex Bolduc and Canuck Tanner Glass took on Minnesota defenceman Shane Hnidy.
“The game is differerent now,” said Vigneault. “For some players it’s tougher for them to find dancing partners, and I’m sure they come up with some creative stuff and this is just one of those creative things.”
Hordichuck said his decision to fight Boogard dated back to incidents in the Canucks’ 4-3 win over the Wild here on Dec. 12.
On Wednesday, Boogard levelled Canuck defenceman Willie Mitchell with a clean check behind the net.
“Anytime a guy starts to run around, obviously, I know my role on this team and I was challenging him to fight in the second period from the benches,” Hordichuk said.
“Alain doesn’t have to send me out to fight.”
Hordichuk, called for 17 penalty minutes, said he didn’t know whether Boogard would accept his invitation.
“But I told the refs ahead of time I might get a two-minute instigator.”
While Vigneault said he’s leaning toward believing Boogard’s version, he also said he believes Burrows who was fined US$2,500 for post-game remarks after Monday’s 3-2 loss to Nashville.
Burrows said Auger approached him in the pre-game warmup and said he was going to get back at him for making him look bad in a Dec. 8 game in Nashville.
The referee called a five-minute major and a game misconduct penalty on Predator Jarred Smithson for a hit on Burrows. The league rescinded the game misconduct, ruling Burrows embellished the foul.
Auger penalized Burrows during Monday’s loss for diving and unsportsmanlike conduct. The Canuck forward was in the penalty box when the winning goal was scored.
Vigneault said Burrows knows he should have let the Canucks deal with the matter internally rather than complain to the media.
“I respect the league’s decision and I understand their decision to fine him, but I do agree that he should have done it another way,” said Vigneault.
The coach acknowleged Burrows’ version of the conversation could be viewed as circumstantial.
“But at the end of the day, I believe Alex Burrows.”
Vigneault said the league said Burrows didn’t have much of a reaction when Auger talked with him prior to the game.
Both the player and the referee said the same thing about the incident except for the Canuck forward’s assertion Auger said “I’m going to get you back,” Vigneault said.
Burrows reacted strongly when the two penalties were called against him, Vigneault said, “and he did have a huge reaction after the game.
“He was very emotional and you don’t make that stuff up. I understand why the league is defending their employee and we’re going to defend our employee.”
Burrows said in an interview that he hasn’t thought about whether it was a mistake to make the public accusations.
“It’s already behind me,” he said. “The decision has been made.”
Each of the Canucks’ three losses has brought controversy.
When they dropped a 3-2 shootout decision Saturday to Calgary, Flames coach Brent Sutter complained a fan was aiming a green laser light in the eyes of Miikka Kiprusoff, his goaltender.