Friday night’s riot-like behaviour between the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins resulted in suspensions for Trevor Gillies (nine games), Matt Martin (four games), and Eric Godard (ten games). The Islanders were also handed a $100,000 fine, the NHL’s way of saying that the team lost control of its players. Penguins co-owner and NHL legend Mario Lemieux had some harsh words for the NHL regarding its decision on discipline.
“Hockey is a tough, physical game, and it always should be. But what happened Friday night on Long Island wasn’t hockey. It was a travesty. It was painful to watch the game I love turn into a sideshow like that.
“The NHL had a chance to send a clear and strong message that those kinds of actions are unacceptable and embarrassing to the sport. It failed.
“We, as a league, must do a better job of protecting the integrity of the game and the safety of our players. We must make it clear that those kinds of actions will not be tolerated and will be met with meaningful disciplinary action.
“If the events relating to Friday night reflect the state of the league, I need to re-think whether I want to be a part of it.”
Lemieux’s Penguins were not fined, which has Isles GM Garth Snow puzzled. Eric Godard received an automatic ten-game suspension for leaving the bench to defend goaltender Brent Johnson, which had many thinking that head coach Dan Bylsma would be reprimanded for as well. Trevor Gillies earned a nine game suspension for his attempt to injure Eric Tangradi and subsequent taunting of the player while he was lying on the ice. Martin’s four game breather comes after his sucker punch on Maxime Talbot.
The $100,000 fine levied upon the Islanders likely had much to do with the the general sense of things had gotten out of hand and the antics of Michael Haley who, following a skirmish, skated the length of the ice to fight Brent Johnson. The Penguins were seemingly excused of any further blame in igniting the fiasco. Without naming names or specific occurrences, Lemieux was clearly not happy with the assessment.
Is Lemieux right to scold the NHL? That’s where today’s debate caught fire.
Online conversation on this subject quickly turned to scoffs of “hypocrite” towards Lemieux’s comments on the basis that he’s Matt Cooke’s employer. Granted, Matt Cooke’s dirty play is a large part of what’s wrong with today’s NHL, but does that mean we should discount what Lemieux has to say on the matter?