On Saturday, the National Hockey League answered the mayhem by handing out suspensions to Pittsburgh’s Eric Godard and New York’s Trevor Gillies and Matt Martin.
Godard received an automatic 10-game suspension for coming off the bench and becoming involved in a fight after Penguins goalie Brent Johnson paired up with Islanders recent call-up Micheal Haley.
Gillies drew a nine-game suspension for elbowing Pittsburgh’s Eric Tangradi, who left the game with concussion symptoms.
Martin, a repeat offender, was suspended for four games for punching Pittsburgh’s Max Talbot from behind.
Additionally, the Islanders as an organization were fined $100,000 for their failure to control their players.
On Sunday, Penguins co-owner Mario Lemieux responded to the incident and the NHL’s repercussions.
“Hockey is a tough, physical game, and it always should be,” he said in a statement released on the Penguins website. “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.”
In response to Lemieux’s statement, fans, beat writers and hockey analysts alike are quickly pointing out how hypocritical his statement is due to the controversy surrounding Penguins agitator Matt Cooke and his over-the-line style of play.
It’s difficult for the hockey world to take his words seriously when he speaks of “protecting the integrity of the game and the safety of our players” when a player in his own organization represents the opposite of these ideals in the NHL.
Cooke is notorious for his style of hockey — physical and reckless — and has been suspended twice in the past two seasons. The first suspension came in November 2009 for a blindside hit on New York Ranger Artem Anisimov and his second on Tuesday for checking Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Fedor Tyutin from behind.
He luckily escaped additional discipline after leveling Boston Bruin center Marc Savard last year and taking out Washington Capital captain Alexander Ovechkin with a knee-on-knee hit last Sunday.
Despite this, Cooke told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that “he has received support from Penguins ownership.”
If Lemieux wants to see change, he has to start on his own ice.
The role of hitting in hockey is to separate players from the puck, clear space for teammates and help sway the momentum of a game — not to injure an opponent.
Since Lemieux is so outspoken on the topic of the “integrity” of the game, maybe he can explain it clearly enough for Cooke to understand.
Or just waive him.
What are your thoughts on Mario Lemieux’s comments on Friday’s game? Share your thoughts below.