Mario Lemieux Criticizes NHL for Sanctions on Penguins-Islanders Fights

Pittsburgh Penguins owner Mario Lemieux said the National Hockey League didn’t hand out stiff enough sanctions after a brawl-tarnished game against the New York Islanders.

The league suspended Pittsburgh’s Eric Godard for 10 games and New York’s Trevor Gillies and Matt Martin for nine and four games respectively. The NHL also fined the Islanders $100,000.

Lemieux said the punishments were insufficient after officials handed out 65 penalties totaling 346 minutes and ejected 10 players during New York’s 9-3 win at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, New York on Feb. 11.

“The NHL had a chance to send a clear and strong message that those kinds of actions are unacceptable and embarrassing to the sport,” Lemieux, a Hall of Fame player who spent 17 seasons with the Penguins, said in a statement on the team’s website today. “It failed.”

Gillies will lose $24,193 in salary, Martin will forsake $41,585 and Godard will relinquish $40,322, the league said.

Godard’s penalty was automatic because he left the bench to take part in a third-period melee, the league said. Gillies was punished for striking Pittsburgh’s Eric Tangradi with an elbow and throwing several punches to his head, leading to a concussion for Tangradi, while Martin was banned for punching opponent Max Talbot from behind.

“The message should be clear to all players: targeting the head of an opponent by whatever means will be dealt with by suspension,” NHL Senior Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell said in the league’s statement.

The 45-year-old Lemieux, who bought the Penguins out of bankruptcy in 1999, said the events were “a travesty” and reduced the game to a “sideshow.” He said the incidents have caused him to reflect on whether to continue in the sport.

“We, as a league, must do a better job of protecting the integrity of the game and the safety of our players,” said Lemieux, the seventh-leading scorer in NHL history. “If the events relating to Friday night reflect the state of the league, I need to rethink whether I want to be a part of it.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Dex McLuskey in Dallas at dmcluskey@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net.

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