I'm posting this as a fanpost, rather than a fanshot, because my remarks are not that brief.
If you have not seen yet, Mario Lemieux released a statement today criticizing the NHL's response to Friday night's shenanigans in the Isles/Penguins game. I've tried to read Lemieux's comments in a charitable way, so as to find criticism of both the Islanders as well as the Pens. Unfortunately, it just doesn't seem to be there. Consider the following statement: "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 Mario is solely talking about Friday night's game, then the dangerous actions were all taken by the Islanders.
My response to Lemieux's statement: Who cares? Sorry, Mario, but character is not revealed when criticizing obviously inappropriate actions against your own team (i.e. Martin's sucker punch, Gillies's elbow to the head and subsequent goonery, etc.). Where were you when Matt Cooke leapt into Tyutin last week? Where were you when Cooke delivered a knee-to-knee hit on Ovie the game before? What did you have to say when your team laughed on their bench at the Islanders during the previous meeting of those two teams? Lemieux isn't providing leadership here, and he's not courageously speaking his mind. Instead, he's selfishly criticizing an opposing team. In this piece, Garth Snow does not come off a whole lot better.
I'm not saying that the NHL got it right with their punishment of the Islanders. Haley clearly should have been suspended for starting a fight with Johnson after being pulled out of an earlier fight. It's also a joke that Godard received the longest suspension when his actions (leaving his bench to defend his goaltender) seemed to be far less objectionable than Martin's, Gillies's, or even Haley's. I get the need to have an automatic suspension for the first player to leave his bench to enter a fight. But should it really be 10 games? Should that player really receive a harsher punishment than a player who sucker punches an opponent, or delivers an elbow to the head and then taunts the injured player? And after all of that non-sense, Coach Jack Capuano probably deserved a suspension as well.
My point is that the NHL will never be forced to improve their currently ineffective policing regime if owners, GMs, coaches, and players continue to selfishly criticize actions against players on their own team, while remaining silent when their teammates put opposing players in danger. If Lemieux wants real change, he has to show some spine. Until that point in time, players who know better will continue to be motivated to take matters into their own hands by revenging a hit against a teammate by putting an opponent's safety at risk. Furthermore, goons like Trevor Gillies, whose only qualifications for playing in an NHL game are his ability to stay upright on skates and his willingness to fight, will continue to get playing time. I feel genuinely sorry for enforcers, like Gillies's teammate Zenon Konopka, who actually have hockey skills. I know I'd take Konopka and his incredible faceoff abilities over Tim Sestito on our fourth line any day of the week.
So am I the only one who sees very little hope for change? A few weeks ago, Andrew Ference was blasted for actually criticizing his own teammate's reckless hit. I just don't see the hockey culture changing any time soon. I hope someone can provide me with a reason for hope.