When people compare Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux, one of the most common criticisms of “Super Mario” is the notion that he wasn’t an “ambassador” for the game.
That doesn’t mean that the Hall of Famer went through his NHL career without uttering a word, as he was a notable critic of the league’s “clutch and grab” era. The Pittsburgh Penguins’ partial owner showed that he can speak outside of platitudes and cliches when he released a resounding statement moments ago regarding the ugly New York Islanders-Penguins game from Friday.
Lemieux apparently isn’t satisfied with the suspensions and fines levied by the league against the Islanders. (To refresh your memory, the NHL suspended Trevor Gillies for nine games and Matt Martin for four while handing the Islanders a $100,000 fine.)
While many of the Penguins’ critics will linger on the fact that they employ Matt Cooke, it’s a refreshingly candid take in an atmosphere in which press releases are usually as bland as rice cakes. Here is Lemieux’s full statement, via 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.”
Well, tell us how you really feel, Mario.