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Sean Leahy

Mario Lemieux responds to Isles/Pens fallout with strong words

Sean Leahy
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Organizations releasing statements that disagree with a suspension handed out by the NHL is not an uncommon occurrence. Boston Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli recently disagreed publicly with the four-game ban of Daniel Paille(notes) after his blindside hit on Ray Sawada of the Dallas Stars.

But the statement released Sunday afternoon by Pittsburgh Penguins owner Mario Lemieux after the events of Friday night against the New York Islanders pales in comparison to any recent organizational disagreement to the supplemental discipline process. Responding to the $100,000 fine to the Islanders, the four-game ban to Matt Martin(notes) for his roughing up of Max Talbot(notes) and the nine-game suspension for Trevor Gillies(notes) after his hit to the head of Eric Tangradi(notes), Lemieux expressed his disappointment with the NHL's decision.

From the Penguins:

"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."

Last time we heard Mario speak so strongly, he was calling the NHL a "garage league" in 1992.

Many are pointing out hypocrisy between Lemieux's strong words and the fact that he employs Matt Cooke(notes) and played with guys like Ulf Samuelsson and Darius Kasparaitis during his career. But how often do you see an owner or GM publicly criticize one of their own? Not often, if at all, which is why Andrew Ference's(notes) comments after the Paille hit touched a nerve with some.

Islanders GM Garth Snow responded to the suspensions Sunday afternoon as well, but stayed away from criticizing Colin Campbell's decision.

From Newsday (subscription required):

"For me, I thought when I saw the suspensions on both sides and the fines, I was a little surprised that it was just our club that got fined," Snow said.

"I would never criticize what Colin Campbell has to do -- he's in a tough situation -- but I will say that I'm very proud with the way the team competed," he said.

[...]

"They're trying to eliminate checks that end up having an impact to the head," Snow said. "The hit that Trevor administered -- I think he had the right intentions. In fact, he ended up maybe being reverse-hit a little bit and falling to the ice. At that point I think he was probably getting off the ice in engagement mode. Things happen pretty fast and that's the way I saw that play unfold."

Snow said he does not plan on appealing the decision.

"No. It's a situation where the league does its due process and makes its ruling. For us, whether it's our team or another team, whether you agree with it or not, it's not something you can waste a lot of time with. You just prepare for the next team."

Los Angeles Kings GM Dean Lombardi was fined $50,000 last month for his comments about the NHL's VP of hockey ops Mike Murphy(notes) over a controversial video review call. After fining the Islanders $100,000 Sunday night for "failure to control their players," will the NHL decide to hit Lemieux and the Penguins in their wallets for his comments?

UPDATE: TSN's Darren Dreger tweets a quote from NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly that the league will not have a response to Lemieux's comments and they are satisfied with Campbell's punishment.

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