Pittsburgh Penguins owner Mario Lemieux blasted the National Hockey League for the way it handled Friday's fight-filled game between Pittsburgh and the New York Islanders.
Lemieux issued a news release Sunday afternoon criticizing the league for not coming down hard enough on the players at the centre of the brawls.
"Hockey is a tough, physical game, and it always should be," Lemieux said. "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."
The Penguins and Islanders combined for 346 penalty minutes during the game and the NHL handed out suspensions totalling 23 games Saturday night.
Pittsburgh's Eric Godard got the sniffiest penalty — 10 games for leaving the bench during a fight. Trevor Gilles of the Islanders is suspended for nine games for an elbow on Pittsburgh's Eric Tangradi and Islanders forward Matt Martin got a four-game ban for sucker-punching Pittsburgh's Maxime Talbot.
In addition, the Islanders were fined $100,000 US.
Clearly Lemieux, a member of the Hockey_Hall of Fame, didn't think those penalties went far enough and hinted he may not want to be associated with the NHL any longer.
"We, as a league, must do a better job of protecting the integrity of the game and the safety of our players," he said. "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."
The Islanders, who won Friday's game 9-3, were upset because their starting goalie Rick DiPietro was injured in a fight with Penguins' netminder Brent Johnson in a game Feb. 2. Also in that contest the Islanders took exception to Talbot's hit on Blake Comeau.
The bad blood carried over into Friday's game which featured 15 fighting majors, 10 misconducts and 11 game misconducts.
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Retired hockey super star Mario Lemieux waves to the crowd after dropping the puck in the ceremonial face off before the Pittsburgh Penguins play the Detroit Red Wings in Game 3 of the NHL Stanley Cup Final hockey series in Pittsburgh June 2, 2009.
Photograph by: Shaun Best/Reuters, National Post