Hey, remember Stephane Auger, who was just named the new head of the Swiss Hockey League’s Department of Player Safety? Of course you do.
He was the referee embroiled in one of the NHL’s greatest recent controversies. In Jan. 2010, Alex Burrows of the Vancouver Canucks said Auger threatened to “get him back” for embarrassing him with a dive in a previous game, and Auger called two minors and a misconduct against Burrows in the third period of a loss against the Nashville Predators. Burrows was fined $2,500 for his remarks.
That led to the infamous 11-minute character assassination by Ron MacLean on “Hockey Night in Canada,” followed by a two-minute apology to Burrows.
That was the “Citizen Kane” of Auger’s terrible tenure as an NHL referee, in which he made Tim Peel look like Chief Justice Earl Warren by comparison.
(In fact, during the fallout of My Night With Tim Peel, one NHL official evoked Stephane Auger’s name as an example of the kind of bumbling ref I’ve indicated that Peel has been.)
In 2012, Auger “retired” at 41 years old, as Dave Shoalts of the Globe & Mail reported:
Auger could not be reached for comment but the fact he was not given a farewell season, as many referees are, also indicates the "retirement" was not his choice.
… A referee's career depends on receiving good marks from his superiors and Auger was struggling. He was not picked to work the playoffs for at least the last two years and had only 10 playoff games in his career along with 730 regular-season games.
[NHL Director of Officials Terry] Gregson said Auger "took a long look" and decided to leave while he still had some control over his situation. This way, Auger can collect his severance pay while he decides on another line of work.
Well, it’s not another line, but it is another league. Auger has been hired by the Swiss Ice Hockey Federation as its Director of Player Safety, according to Swisshockeynews.CH.
Basically, the Swiss league decided to move away from a “single judge” format, in which one league official initiates a suspension process. That was what they had with Reto Steinmann, and now it’s changing:
Only the clubs (through handing in videos), Stéphane Auger as Director of Player Safety and Head of Referees Brent Reiber can do so. If a club hands in a video, the club will automatically bear the costs that are arising from it. In the end, Auger and Reiber will decide on a verdict.
As Blick writes, Steinmann could - in theory - adjust the verdict. In addition, the club officials are forbidden to contact Steinmann and put pressure on him in the future. The single judge is also not allowed to talk to journalists anymore.
The only reason why Reto Steinmann is still part of the system for the upcoming season is that the statutes would have to be changed immediately. He will thus hold office for another year.
(As stated above: Swiss teams have to shoulder the cost for submitting videos to the league for potential suspensions, and they receive a refund if the suspension is handed out.)
Auger will still report his findings to Steinmann, but one of the most problematic and petty referees in recent memory is now, in fact, in charge of fairness and oversight for Swiss hockey. What a world.
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