VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — Alain Vigneault and Claude Julien know all about bad behavior after the whistle in big hockey games.
They might have even participated in a few shenanigans themselves back when the Stanley Cup coaches were teammates.
Put it this way: Vigneault’s nickname was Bam-Bam, and he racked up 266 penalty minutes in 1981-82 with the CHL’s Salt Lake Golden Eagles. Julien had a mere 134 of his own.
“Things were a lot different in those days,” Boston coach Julien said. “I remember a lot of gouging, a lot of biting. It was fair game at that time. Obviously, the rules have gotten a little tighter. Those kind of things right now are deemed unacceptable.”
Yet Julien was only mildly disappointed when Vancouver’s Alex Burrows avoided suspension Thursday after NHL officials decided they couldn’t prove he deliberately bit the finger of Boston’s Patrice Bergeron during the Canucks’ 1-0 series-opening victory Wednesday.
“It’s too bad that something like that has to happen in the Stanley Cup finals,” Julien said. “I think there’s better ways of resolving issues than getting to that.”
Bite or no bite, Game 2 is Saturday night — and Burrows will be on Vancouver’s top line alongside the Sedin twins.
Perhaps it’s only fitting for a little extracurricular activity to be the main off-day focus after a finals game coached by Vigneault and Julien, the first two French-Canadian coaches to meet in a Stanley Cup finals. Both were better known for scrapping than scoring during playing careers which only included brief tastes of NHL action.
“Back then, you didn’t have a lot of scrums after the whistle,” Vigneault said. “If something was going to happen, it was going to be a fight. It wasn’t a lot of pushing and shoving. It was either, ‘Let’s go,’ or guys went back to their benches.”
Although the Bruins weren’t terribly happy about NHL disciplinarian Mike Murphy’s decision, both teams realize they’ve got bigger concerns than an alleged bite.
After all, players have been biting, gouging, facewashing, elbowing, grabbing, spearing — and don’t forget punching — since probably the first period of the first game after Canada invented hockey.
“That’s how French guys say hello to one another,” joked Alexandre Bolduc, who centered the Canucks’ fourth line in Game 1.
“You want to show respect, you put your fingers in someone’s mouth.”
Daniel and Henrik Sedin were relieved that such a silly incident didn’t sideline their linemate early in what’s shaping up as a gritty, goalie-dominated series.
Roberto Luongo shut out the Bruins with 36 saves, and Boston’s Tim Thomas nearly matched him in a penalty-plagued game featuring six power plays for each team. Raffi Torres finally scored with 18.5 seconds to play, giving Vancouver a series-opening victory and the accompanying 77 percent historic probability of winning its first Stanley Cup title.
“We need him out there,” said NHL scoring champion Daniel Sedin, who took eight shots without a goal in Game 1. “He plays in every situation. Big part of this team. Obviously, we’re happy to have him inside the rink.”
Burrows wasn’t made available to reporters after the Canucks’ light practice Thursday at the University of British Columbia.
The Bruins refused to get indignant about the NHL’s decision, with Julien cautioning his players against whining about a single play in a chippy game.
“I’m over it,” Bergeron said Thursday after the Bruins’ workout. “I’m looking forward to the next game. We’ve got to get back in the series. Like I said last night, it’s the league’s decision, and I’ve got to let them make it. … I don’t want to whine about that stuff. I don’t care.”
After the game, Bergeron declared Burrows had bitten him while they scuffled after the first-period buzzer, even showing his bandaged right index finger and saying he planned to take antibiotics.
In the television replay that seemingly played on an infinite loop in Vancouver’s bars and restaurants Wednesday night, Bergeron’s gloved finger clearly went into Burrows’ mouth. Bergeron claimed Burrows then bit down on him, but Burrows denied it.
Bergeron scoffed at the notion he had deliberately put his finger in Burrows’ mouth. Both players had their gloves in each other’s face at different points of the scuffle.
“We were both facewashing each other, and I didn’t need to put my finger in his mouth,” Bergeron said. “Why would I do that?”
Although fighting usually drops in the postseason, old-time hockey never goes out of style. Scrums and shoving matches have occurred after any whistle involving physical play throughout the 22-season career of Mark Recchi, Boston’s veteran forward.
“That’s part of the game — not the biting, but the physical play and the stuff after the whistle,” said Recchi, who has just two goals in 19 playoff games after missing a golden scoring chance at the side of Luongo’s net early in the second period of Game 1.
“We were in the middle of a quality game. It’s two big teams that skate well and have a lot of character. I expected there to be no feeling-out period, and there wasn’t.”
Vancouver had its own questions for the officials after Game 1, specifically about Thomas’ tendency to roam out of his crease.
Vigneault said the Canucks would “seek some clarification” about what they’re allowed to do to the Vezina Trophy-winning goalie, who drew a tripping penalty on Burrows in the second period.
Thomas isn’t about to change his scrambling, aggressive style — Bergeron calls it “battlefly,” in a variation on the classic butterfly style played by Luongo and the majority of the NHL’s goalies — to suit the Canucks.
“I just play my game,” Thomas said. “It’s not always in the blue (paint around the goal). Sometimes it is. You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)