The effect that a game like Friday night’s debacle will have on the NHL world, not just this year but in the future, is way more than the NHL executives are aware of. When the Disney executives, who just happen to be the owners of ESPN, look at the game, how anxious will they be to offer a ton of money for a big TV contract this year? When a kid tells his mom he wants to play hockey, what’s a mom going to say? To see the effect Mario Lemieux and what the NHL calls their “Model Franchise” has had on the NHL, you need not look further than all the players coming out of Pittsburgh that play in the NHL now. Especially take a look at this up coming draft.
All over the talk shows and internet boards right now people are comparing what the Islanders did to what Matt Cooke was suspended for a week ago. Mario Lemieux made a statement yesterday about the NHL’s handling of the Islanders debacle on Friday night and while many around the NHL are applauding his boldness in stepping up and saying something, a few are recommending he cleans his own house first.
As far as the Matt Cooke penalty is concerned, it was definitely a stupid play and he got the typical 4 game suspension the NHL throws out for such a play. I do not recall anyone in Pittsburgh complaining about the suspension or saying it was wrong. Some have said Tyutin knew the hit was coming and turned, but not one person in Pittsburgh that I have talked to said that Cooke didn’t deserve a suspension.
The Cooke hit for example would be filed under stupid and cheap, yet it was a hockey play. It was a hockey play to the point they gave the play the name “boarding” a long long time ago. Cooke saw Tyutin look at him and still thought it was OK to hit him from behind. He got the right amount of time for his crime considering Cooke’s past.
Matt Martin jumped Talbot from behind, took off his gloves and sucker punched him. This was the exact same thing that Todd Bertuzzi did to Steve Moore which broke Steve Moore’s neck and ended his career. Matt Martin got the same suspension as Cooke. In the NHL executive minds, because Max Talbot did not end up crippled, Matt Martin only got 4 games. This is one of the areas that Mario Lemieux is telling the NHL they need to fix. The NHL is sending the message that hey if you attempt to severely injure a player and come up short, you just get four games same as you do for boarding.
Here is both Martin’s and Bertuzzi’s sucker punches all in the same video (there is no sound for the Bertuzzi part)
In 2004 when Bertuzzi ended Moore’s career, he was suspended indefinitely and the Vancouver Canucks were fined $250,000, over 2 1/2 times what the Islanders got fined this week. The Canuck’s were fined for ”…failure to prevent the atmosphere that may have led to (the incident)”. Garth Snow the Islanders “acting” GM brought up AHL goons just to play in Friday’s game. This was not only a “failure to prevent” the incident, the Islanders management actually caused the incident. The NHL is simply sending the message that even though you tried to take someone out for their career, it is because you failed we have a real light suspension for you.
There is still the question of whether Eric Tangradi will be coming back from the cheap shot he took.
What ties everything together is the fact that Bertuzzi was originally drafted and played 3 seasons for the Islanders, and when he was suspended in Vancouver, it was Matt Cooke who took his place on his line. You will not find many if any Penguin fans that will tell you that Matt Cooke is a 100% clean player. As a season ticket holder and someone who has seen almost every Penguin game dating back to 1985, I can tell you that because of the way the NHL handles itself, there is a need for a Matt Cooke or two on the Penguins roster.
In Pittsburgh we have been blessed with having four of the best NHL players ever play for our team. Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. For all but maybe 5 of the last 27 years I have watched players from all over the league taunt, cheap shot and do just about everything you can imagine to these players on a nightly basis. Even the Capitals coach, a guy who has Ovechkin on their team, was overheard in HBO 24/7 suggesting they do whatever it takes to throw Malkin off his game because Malkin is known for retaliatory penalties.
One of the dumbest thing the NHL does is give retaliatory penalties and 90% of the time does not give the instigator a penalty. I cannot remember a game that that this did not happen in. Until the NHL rectifies this, why would a player not be the one to instigate something by face washing a guy after a scrum in front of the net. If you are a player who does something first, 90% of the time you get rewarded with a penalty against the other team.
The NHL’s number two guy Bill Daly, someone I used to think had a lot of promise, had this to say “We are entirely comfortable with how Friday night’s events were handled, we have no other response to Mr. Lemieux’s statement.”
The NHL is the fastest most exciting sport in the world but will continue to be the cellar dwelling sports world joke until someone steps up and fixes it. If you think the NHL doesn’t need fixing, look to the sub 10,000 a game average attendence the Islanders get in the middle of the NHL’s largest market, look at the faltering Phoenix and Atlanta franchises and the $3.00 tickets that could be had to see a NHL game at either franchise in Florida. There is a huge problem and it’s all being shoved under the carpet.