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LWOS Hockey Roundtable: Is Chirping Suspendable?

Behind the scenes here at Last Word On Sports, our hockey department gets into some pretty pointed discussions about the latest news in the NHL and around the hockey world. So, we thought we’d pull back the curtain and give you some insight into our thoughts with a regular series called LWOS Hockey Roundtable. Feel free to join in on the conversation in the comments section below or by Tweeting at any of our writers!

Chirping in the NHL has a long and storied history, as emotions on the ice boil over into insults and taunting in an attempt to gain any kind of competitive advantage. However, it seems chirping can occasionally go too far.

On November 8th in a game against the New Jersey Devils, Vancouver Canucks forward Alex Burrows allegedly went too far in comments directed towards Devils forward Jordin Tootoo. Burrows is known, to put it nicely, to be a bit of a rat on the ice, so it’s not surprising he would be embroiled in something like this, while the same could be said by some of Tootoo as well.

Tootoo claimed the comments Burrows made were “classless and unacceptable in this day and age,” while Burrows defends that what he’s said has been told to him in the past. Apparently the league has found this he said/he said sufficient enough to have a meeting with Burrows in Toronto as the Canucks continue their Eastern Conference road swing.

That begs the question: Is chirping suspendable?

LWOS Hockey Roundtable: Is Chirping Suspendable?

Ken Hill (@LWOSPuckHead): So, it looks like Burrows is going to meet with the league for the “incident” with Tootoo.

Brandon Altomonte: What’s the point in him meeting with the league? It’s his words against Tootoo’s.

Ben (@LastWordBKerr): The Refs may have heard it.  The league has used what the refs and linesman have heard as a reason to suspend before, see Kris Barch’s comments to P.K. Subban a few years back.

Aaron Wrotkowski (@AaronWrotkowski): “People around us heard what he said and he knows exactly what he said.” – Tootoo.

“What I said I’ve been told the same in the past and I’ve heard it plenty of times throughout my career.” – Burrows.

So Burrows isn’t denying he said what he said, just that it wasn’t offensive.

Sean Lloyd (@SeanLloyd93): What’s he supposed to have said?

Aaron: Nobody knows, but Burrows said it wasn’t about substance abuse or (Tootoo’s) heritage.

Tyler Shea (@TylerLWOS): He’s (Burrows) got a rep though. So it’s more likely that he did say something that crossed a line. At the same time we don’t know if Tootoo said something as well. But I’m more willing to believe a guy who is dirty but has since overcome struggles than a guy who chirps.

Ken: We know just a fraction of what gets said on the ice, and it’s salacious and outrageous and offensive… I can imagine the stuff that doesn’t get out is even worse.

Ben: This is just speculation, but it could have been something about Tootoo’s brother.  For those that don’t know, Jordan Tootoo’s brother committed suicide.  To be clear we don’t know that he said this, but CTV is reporting that the comments were about Tootoo’s family, so its one possibility.

Tyler: Well, if Burrows did cross the line, then this needs to be publicized. Players need to respect each other’s boundaries. There’s a time and a place when they can chirp. But saying something about (Tootoo’s) brother, heritage, or past? No.

Sean: Generic family talk is expected, (but) personal stuff needs to be respected and left alone.

Ken: But who’s to draw the line between what’s disrespectful and what isn’t? The offended party? There’s no way the league can regulate this behavior on the ice. In the media sure, we all remember Sean Avery, but things like what (Burrows) is alleged to have said and worse have been said on the ice for years.

Aaron: It doesn’t matter if worse was said. Of course worse was said. Today you need to consider that sort of thing. If Burrows wants to talk about Tootoo, call him a bad hockey player. You don’t have to bring up his family.

Sean: I’m good with chirping but anyone with common sense should know where the line is. Fight him and he’ll think twice. I’m not big on fighting in the NHL, but some things merit getting taught a lesson.

Ken: My problem is if this (Burrows meeting with the league) is the precedent that’s being set, (if I were a player) I would cry to the league about every single chirp. Let them handle it on a personal level, or a competitive level, but not at a league level.

Ben: The line isn’t that fuzzy to me, its common sense to know when the line is crossed and when it isn’t.  To me that can be seen on a case-by-case basis.  In this case there are three things that could have crossed the line, Tootoo’s brother, Tootoo’s history of substance abuse, or a racial slur at his heritage.  As long as its not one of those three, I don’t think Burrows would have crossed the line.

Aaron: If it was Tootoo making comments about Luc Bourdon… if Burrows heard that and lost his cool, going to the GM, it’d be pretty justified and it’s a remark that wouldn’t belong in the game.

Ken: Given that we don’t know what any of the remarks were, that’s pretty hard to gauge. I’m saying it’s impossible for the league to regulate everything that’s said on the ice, and I don’t want to get bogged down in “He said/He said” situations here moving forward.

Aaron: We’re getting pretty close to camera/sound technology ensuring everything that happens on the ice will be seen and heard. In a couple of years fans will be able to see and hear the game at ice level… if you think the players will (say something offensive caught by a microphone) that the NHL is going to sit back?

Ken: I just don’t want this turning into a situation where players are using this to gain a competitive advantage. You’d better believe if Corey Perry said something about my mom during the playoffs that I’d be lodging a formal complaint.

Tyler: It’s hardly a competitive advantage.

Aaron: And let’s say Perry gets a $100 fine. That’s what you’re worried about?

Ken: That’s a good point, you’ve changed my mind, actually I’m okay with reasonable fines. But I’m completely against them losing any games.

Ben: At a certain point it may become a suspension, but it won’t be for a first or second offense. And if you keep doing it beyond that, you deserve a game.

Tyler: Also, it’ll help the NHLPA or wherever the money goes, but you think a player like Burrows is going to care about a few thousand a year in fines? No. He’s going to keep on trucking. The league should set an example with Burrows. IF he did say what he (is alleged to have) said.

Ken: Okay, so we have a system where it’s a base fine for first offense, double fine for second offense, and then a one game suspension for a third offense? It makes sense given how the NHL handles other supplemental discipline. I guess we’ll just have to see what comes out of the Burrows meeting and what kind of precedent they set.

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