Mario Lemieux: NHL 'Failed,' Questions Future in League
"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," the Pittsburgh Penguins co-owner said in a statement released on Sunday. "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."
The NHL announced just before midnight on Saturday suspensions for Islanders forwards Trevor Gillies (nine games) and Matt Martin (four games), and Pittsburgh's Eric Godard (automatic 10-game ban for leaving the bench). The Islanders were also fined $100,000.
In total, there were 346 penalty minutes and 10 ejections -- most notably Gillies, who blindsided Penguins' Eric Tangradi and proceeded to punch then trash talk the forward as he lay on the ice.
NHL Senior Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell said "the message should be clear to all players: targeting the head of an opponent by whatever means will be dealt with by suspension."
Lemieux, however, said Campbell didn't go nearly far enough and the Hall of Famer who won two Stanley Cup titles as a Pens player questioned whether he still wants to be involved with such an outfit
"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," he said.
These remarks will surely irk NHL's front office, and Lemieux could soon be the target of his own disciplinary action in the form of a fine. His words come nearly six weeks since his captain Sidney Crosby was concussed -- likely by a blindside hit delivered by Washington's David Steckel -- on a collision that didn't draw any sort of penalty.
"We are entirely comfortable with how Friday night's events were handled," NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said in a statement. "We have no other response to Mr. Lemieux's statement."