Alright let's start this off by acknowledging the obvious; Mario Lemieux is one of the greatest players to ever lace up a pair of skates. But his spouting off about the recent melee between his Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders reeks of hypocrisy.
Following the fines and suspensions handed down by the NHL, Lemieux was quoted as saying "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," he said. "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."
He even questioned if he wanted to be part of the league anymore.
Make no mistake about it, what happened Friday night was over the line. While fighting is part of hockey, blind cheap shots and dirty play have no place in any sport. Steps need to be taken to ensure the safety of all players with special attention to the major issue of concussions.
Lemieux should shut up, as he's dripping with hypocrisy on this issue. He currently employs one of the dirtiest players in the league in Matt Cooke. Cooke put a blind side check on Boston's Marc Savard that resulted in a concussion. Even one of Cooke's teammates questioned the hit. Cooke followed that up by knocking Blue Jackets defenseman Fedor Tyutin into the boards headfirst resulting in a four game suspension. He has made a career out of dirty hits and questionable play.
Eric Godard, the Penguins forward, left the bench during a fight earning him an automatic 10 game suspension. Talk about not being able to control your own player. Where, Mr. Lemieux, is the outrage on this?
On top of that his Penguins team leads the NHL in penalties, fights, boarding, penalty minutes, majors, fighting majors, and fights per game. If it wasn't for them falling to second place in game misconducts they would have a clean sweep in the penalty departments.
If Lemieux was really serious about wanting to clean up the league and this style of play then he should clean his own house first. Suspend Cooke and Godard for additional games, and crack down on players when they cross the line.
This would embarrass and force not only the league's hand but other teams as well. There is no doubt that Trevor Giles and Matt Martin acted like fools and should have to sit out for more games than the joke of a wrist slap that they got from the NHL office. Perhaps seeing a team actually stand up and hold players accountable will force the changes that Lemieux claims he wants to see.
As for Lemieux's threat on rethinking his involvement in the game, haven't we heard that before? He left the league once because he no longer loved the game and hated what it had become. The grabbing, hooking mentality that had crept into the game didn't allow him to fly around the ice as he wished. After some time away he did return but soon the whining did too. Now he's pulling a Brett Farve and talking about walking away again.
Mario, if you want to be taken seriously then don't just talk or whine about the issue. Try something different. Actually do something. Stand up to your own goon squad and show the NHL the path. Until then you're just a hypocrite.
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