Black Mark For The Black And Gold
“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.”
In one fell swoop yesterday, the Pittsburgh Penguins players and coaches did their best to turn their iconic owner, the owner that has thrice saved their franchise, into a hypocrite. Amidst yet another beatdown from their bitter cross-state rivals, rivals who have long been known as the toughest kid on the block, rivals who Penguin fans have chastised for years for their physical, dirty play, the Penguin players and coaching staff decided to take the law into their own hands. And in doing so, they stamped themselves as being no better than those very Islanders who Mario Lemieux said might force him from the game.
Really, is there any difference between what James Neal did to Sean Courturier and what Matt Martin did to Max Talbot? Certainly, the intent was the same. The game was out of hand and Neal decided to extract a pound of flesh from the guy that has tormented Evgeni Malkin the entire series. At that stage of the game, it was nothing more than a blatant attempt to injure, as Neal left his feet and went high into the head of Courturier.
And truthfully, is there any difference between what Arron Asham did to Brayden Schenn and what the animalistic Trevor Gillies did to Eric Tangradi on the Island? Both jumped a helpless opponent and then punched them in the head. Both could have ended a guy’s career with their barbarism.
Who ever thought it would come to this? Raise your hand if you thought that the Broad Street Bullies would become the calm, skilled team watching the Pittsburgh Penguins morph into some kind of Slapshot parody? I doubt anyone is raising their hands right now. I’m certainly not.
I feel like I’ve been kicked in the gut. I’m guessing Mario Lemieux feels the same way. The players and staff have just laid the ultimate embarrassment right at their owner’s feet.
In doing so, they have proved John Tortorella’s “arrogance” comments correct. The image they have now created is one of a franchise that preaches good hard clean play, but then allows its own players to maraud about the ice looking to extract a pound of flesh. They rail against head shots, but their own player sucker punches a guy, then punches his face into the ice. Their own player tries to injure an opponent with a late game hit. Let that happen to their own players, and Mario says, “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.” Maybe he DOES need to rethink it.
I would say we all need to rethink it, but that would make no sense. We are all fans of this team, and will remain fans forever. But on this dark day, I can only say that I feel like this.