Just about anyone with an interest in hockey and a half-functional computer probably offered the world their take (make sure to read Joe’s well-reasoned piece) on Mario Lemieux’s fuming release regarding the ugly New York Islanders-Pittsburgh Penguins donnybrook. Let’s take a look at two people who are a little closer to the action, though.
On one side, there’s one of the Islanders who was on the ice during the mayhem: 2009-10 penalty minute leader Zenon Konopka. To the surprise of few, Konopka was not on Lemieux’s side when he shared his perspective on the situation. In fact, Konopka went as far as to say that he would tear the Mario Lemieux poster off his bedroom door the next time he gets home. Zonopoka also said that the all-time great might be so far removed from the game that he forgot what happens “in the heat of the moment.”
(Quick aside: color me surprised that Konopka’s bedroom door isn’t adorned with Bob Probert posters instead.)
Switching gears, Steve Yzerman’s pro-Lemieux reactions shouldn’t surprise anyone, either. After all, the Detroit Red Wings great and current Tampa Bay Lightning GM has been adamant about playing a style in which fights are infrequent. That being said, his statements focused on getting Lemieux more directly involved in improving the game, rather than the issue of fighting itself.
“I think Mario is one of the most well-respected, intelligent people in the game,” the Tampa Bay Lightning GM said Monday on a conference call. “I would encourage him (and) I think we should all encourage him to get more involved with the league because he has a lot to offer.”
“Specifically, I don’t know (what more he could do),” said Yzerman. “Again, Mario is really a bright guy and he’s really a good guy and he’s been around the league and carries a lot of weight.
“I think everyone would encourage to be more involved in everything we do as a league.”
Yzerman makes an interesting point, as it is obvious that Lemieux can bring attention to some of the league’s biggest issues. While discussing Matt Cooke’s presence on the Penguins roster is understandable, it clouds the issue at heart. As exciting as a truly passionate fight can be, the NHL needs to avoid its games becoming a steady stream of these line brawls. Getting Lemieux and others to discuss the league’s issues are the best way to make progress toward finding the right compromise between welcomed aggression and sloppy chaos.